US Secretary of State John Kerry, in an address at the U.S. Institute of Peace on the U.S. approach to the war in Syria, reinforced the administration’s firm opposition to allowing President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power under any resolution to the 4 ½ – year conflict.
Citing years “of indiscriminate violence and torture and bloodshed,” the Secretary said, “asking the opposition to trust Assad or to accept Assad’s leadership is simply not a reasonable request; it is literally, therefore, a non-starter.”
“Neither peace nor the defeat of Daesh is possible with Assad in power,” Kerry said.
The brutality of the war intensified with Assad’s use of barrel bombs dropped from aircraft onto civilian areas, and the Islamic State group’s entry into the fighting with beheadings, rapes and kidnappings.
Kerry also noted that “the longer this terrible civil war lasts, the harder it will be for the country to recover.” He laid responsibility for the war, which has killed an estimated 250,000 people and forced half the country’s population out of their homes, squarely at the feet of Assad.
“The violence only began when Assad responded to peaceful demonstrations by sending in thugs to beat up young people. And when the parents of those young people objected and took to the streets themselves, the regime replied first with bullets, then with bombs,” Kerry said. “Having made peaceful change impossible, Assad made war inevitable.”
The war also gave rise to the Islamic State group, he said. And he equated the militants with Assad, saying, “although Assad and Daesh are supposed to be bitter opponents, they are both parts of the same problem.”
“In fact, the rise of Daesh is directly attributable to the policies and actions of the Assad regime,” Kerry said. “They even do business with each other, buying and selling oil. Assad and Daesh are enemies far more in theory than in fact.”
The challenge for the U.S. and its partners in the Vienna talks, Kerry said, is to “create conditions under which a clear and broadly acceptable alternative can emerge.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)