State Dept. spokeswoman have been working overtime trying once again to extricate the foot of their boss John Kerry out of his mouth after he responded to a question on CBS if the United States would negotiate with Syrian President Assad:
We have to negotiate in the end…. What we’re pushing for is to get him to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds in order to do that.
His comments, an apparent dramatic reversal of Obama administration policy, set off alarm bells in France, which insists Assad will not be part of a negotiated solution.
But here come Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf and her senior, Jen Psaki, to the rescue.
After Assad specifically said he was referring to Assad, Harf said he was not and that the policy stands – a negotiated settlement with the Assad regime but not with him.
Psaki continued to foot-extraction operation in the daily briefing with reporters on Monday and explained:
By necessity, there has always been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of this process. It has never been and would not be Assad who would negotiate — and the secretary was not saying that today….
It would not be and would never be, and it wasn’t what Secretary Kerry was intending to imply, that that would be Assad himself.
In plainer English, Kerry did not imply what he said.
The reporters at the briefing did not miss a beat and still expressed their confusion of what the man really says, implies and thinks, if that is the right word.
After Psaki insisted that the opposition parties sitting at a negotiating table by themselves “wouldn’t result in a political process or the conclusion of a political process that would bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people,” a journalist asked:
Almost all the statements by all the different opposition groups basically were critical of the Secretary’s statement, and basically saying there’s no way that they would negotiate with Assad. Do you see any other way…?
Psaki reiterated that what Kerry did not say what he said and answered, “Well, I just stated that’s not what we’re indicating. Obviously, there would need to be representatives of the regime. That’s always been the case. But I think it’s also important to remember, for everyone, unfortunately there’s no process that’s ongoing right now, so we’re purely talking about how it would work potentially if there were to be a process in place.”
One reporter tried to help Psaki and asked, “Can you say that he [Kerry] was imprecise and that he perhaps should have answered the question, ‘Will you negotiate with him’ in a little better – in a little more precise fashion to say that he means the regime?”
Psaki jumped at the opportunity and reasoned that Kerry simply used the name “Assad” as “shorthand, obviously, representative of the regime.”
How exactly Kerry expects to convince Assad’s associates to come to the table with the demand that Assad must go is another question that one the Secretary of State can answer, but he is good at making up insolvable riddles to keep him busy, when he not busy saying what he doesn’t mean.
For example, he still pursues the “two-state” solution through negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, which has said that there is nothing to be negotiated. All Israel has to do is sign on the dotted line on a document he has written.
Reporters at the media briefing on more or less on the same page. One of them told Psaki, “I’m trying to understand the wisdom behind casting some sort of an element of finality, saying that he cannot be a part of Syria’s future and so on, when in fact – I mean, I saw the envoy to Syria, and he said we think that Assad was serious, he wants an end to the violence. …. Whether like him or not like him, he is part of Syria. So in that sense, why cast the finality that we will not negotiate with him under any conditions?”