This growing boondoggle on Syria gets more absurd by the day. Monday morning, John Kerry held a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and, of course, the questions were all about Syria. When a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to avoid military action by the United States, he said:
Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.
The Russian government thought that was a great idea and jumped on it, saying they would “immediately begin work with Damascus” to convince Assad to do just that. Now, whether he will or not is obviously an important and unanswered question. But the State Department quickly walked back Kerry’s statement, claiming that he really meant something entirely different than what he said:
“Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail to reporters after Mr. Kerry’s comments. “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.”
The White House, on the other hand, says they’re “going to take a hard look at this” and will “talk to the Russians about it.” That’s good, that’s the proper response. I don’t know whether Assad would really do this, but if the Russians can bring pressure to bear and the threat of bombing can push him to do it, that seems like an ideal solution to me. And if Assad says he’ll do that and the White House doesn’t back down from the brink of an attack, that will pretty clearly show that the threat of attack is not really about the chemical weapons.
And WTF is Kerry doing? Seriously, if you’re throwing out off the cuff remarks in front of the press that have to be completely walked back by the administration a few minutes later, maybe you’re in the wrong job.