US Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday that there is a united front against the Islamic State (IS), and insisted he is absolutely convinced the militants will be defeated. He stated: “I have no doubt whatsoever that with the help of all the nations that are united against Daesh (Arabic for ISIS), they are going to be defeated.”
Kerry spoke from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where he is visiting. He outlined a three-pronged strategy against ISIS that includes a military effort, cooperation with other countries to enhance regional stability and solve the refugee crisis, and yet another round of diplomatic negotiations (third so far) in Vienna, to bring an end to the civil war in Syria.
“We are working very hard to accelerate the efforts out of Vienna to give that diplomatic process life,” Kerry said. The 17-nation conference in Vienna last weekend drafted a peace plan declaring that Syrian “free and fair elections would be held pursuant to the new constitution within 18 months,” and the US and its coalition partners are insisting that any Syrian peace deal must include the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad. But that may not happen while Kerry is in office, if at all.
The Russians are arguing that destabilizing Assad’s regime would only lead to more violence and unrest, and they’ve made it clear they prefer peace in Syria with, rather than without Assad. The Syrian president himself just told Italian state television: “Nothing can start before defeating the terrorists who occupy parts of Syria.” So that’s a permanent, vicious cycle.
Daniel R. DePetris, writing in The National Interest earlier this year, called the Syrian president Bashar “a clever sociopath.” He noted: “The man has single-handedly killed over 200,000 of his own people with some of the most indiscriminate and inhumane weapons that mankind has to offer (guidance-free barrel bombs casually rolled out of helicopters; chemical weapons that have been banned by the international community, including sarin and nerve agents; chlorine dropped from Syrian aircraft; starvation; the withholding of medical equipment, etc.), yet has consistently acted as if the humanitarian watchdogs, governments, and multilateral organizations accusing him of these things are crazy, naïve, or drinking Kool-Aid created and sold by the United States and its Arab ‘puppets.'”
Sec. Kerry may need a fourth and a fifth prong for his diplomatic pitchfork. He will certainly need an additional prong for the Israeli-Palestinian war of knives and scissors. Kerry travels to Israel from Abu Dhabi, to talk with Netanyahu and Abbas about stopping the violence. He told NBC he’s going to establish some “concrete steps” to calm the situation so “people are not living in absolute, daily terror that they might be stabbed or driven into or shot trying to walk around their city.”
Brookings Institution Middle East analyst Khaled Elgindy said he was uncertain whether Kerry could make progress. Of course, he blamed the right wing Israeli government which, alas, is “very much committed to the settlement project.”
Perhaps a steep tax on cutlery and scissors would eventually bring the much needed calm.