US Secretary of State John Kerry is under increasing pressure over the Obama’s administration’s Middle East diplomatic policy. Tuesday, Feb. 4, the State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki accused Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham of “mischaracterizing” Kerry’s remarks at a meeting they held Sunday on the Syrian question.
She was referring to their quotes of the Secretary as reporting that the Geneva negotiating process “hasn’t delivered,” that chemical weapons removal is “being slow-rolled;" that the Russians continue to supply arms; and “we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy.”
The Secretary spoke favorably about arming and training the rebels, Graham added.
Psaki denied this quote. “This is a case of members projecting what they want to hear and not stating the accurate facts of what was discussed,” she said.
The State Department spokeswoman used the same tone of haughty reproof when she rejected Israel’s criticism of Kerry’s warning of boycotts if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, when he spoke to the Munich Security Conference Saturday.
“[Mr Kerry] expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements,” she said.
In the case of Syria, whatever the Secretary may have said to the senators, the horrific facts cannot be brushed away. January, 2014, was the bloodiest month of the three-year Syrian civil war amid a strenuous US bid to bring diplomacy to bear for a political solution. Nearly 6,000 people died that month in Syria and the total three-year death toll shot up to at least 136,227, according to figures gathered by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
Clearly something is serious amiss at the Washington end: Geneva II was a fiasco; the deal Kerry struck with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last year for the elimination of Syria’s chemical arsenal is bogged down; the six-power nuclear negotiations with Iran, intended additionally to produce a formula for ending the Syrian conflict, has had the opposite effect: Iranian forces remain involved in the escalation of the slaughter and, while razing street after street in Aleppo with barrel bombs, Bashar Assad retains a firm grip on power.
The two US senators were only stating the obvious when they called on the Secretary of State to account for US policy failures in the face of these disasters.
On another front, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice also rose to Kerry’s defense against the criticism directed against him from Israel. “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable,” she tweeted Monday.
“John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” she wrote, adding, “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures.”
Her last tweet read, “U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
Senior officials in Jerusalem told debkafile in response that no one doubts the president and secretary’s good intentions. But where are those intentions are leading Israel – like Syria, they ask.
In the latest example of a US misconception, the New York Times Monday, Feb. 3 quoted Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas as proposing that a US-led NATO force patrol a future Palestinian state.
Setting aside the impression that the Abbas suggestion was inspired by Washington, it must be asked how the Obama administration imagines Israel will consent to relegating its security and ongoing struggle against Palestinian terrorism to US, British, German or French troops – especially after Afghanistan and Iraq.
Would these imported foreign contingents fight their way through the alleys of the refugee camps of Bethlehem or Jenin to chase down Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorists and confront them in hand to hand combat? Failing this, would trained Israeli anti-terrorist forces be allowed to storm across the border to do the job? Wouldn’t the US-led NATO force stop them at the border of the new Palestinian state?
This and other irreconcilable differences in the approach to Israel’s security may explain the unconfirmed rumor that Secretary Kerry has decided to postpone the presentation of his proposed framework accord to Israel and the Palestinians, realizing that a change in strategy might be useful in this case too.