Did Obama pick Pollyanna for Secretary of State?
His name is apparently John Kerry, but he's sounding a lot like Pollyanna when talking about getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that he planned to use his first foreign trip to advance new ideas about how to persuade President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to yield power and agree to a political transition.
Mr. Kerry's itinerary has not been formally announced, but he is expected to go to Europe and the Middle East later this month.
Though the United States has sought to encourage a negotiated handover of authority to a transitional government, Mr. Assad's determination to cling to power has proved to be a major, and so far insurmountable, impediment.
"I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception," Mr. Kerry said. "My goal is to see us change his calculation."
Mr. Kerry did not say what ideas he had in mind. But he stressed the importance of trying to find common ground with the Russians, whose cooperation the Americans have long sought in trying to convince Mr. Assad that he is isolated internationally.
Russia has publicly insisted that Mr. Assad's departure from power should not be a precondition for negotiations between the rebels and the government. Russia has also continued to ship arms to the Assad government and provide financial support, American officials say.
Mr. Kerry's comments followed a meeting at the State Department with Jordan's foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, who made similar comments about the need to narrow differences between Syrian rebels, who have demanded that Mr. Assad give up before a political transition is worked out, and the Syrian president's supporters.
It isn't just Assad who needs to be convinced to leave. Nearly 7% of Syria's population are Alawites who have dominated the economic, military, and political life of Syria for more than 40 years. They are in the cross hairs of the Sunni majority and once Assad is out of the picture, the real bloodletting will begin. Alawites are an offshot of Shia Islam and coupled with their high handed running of the country, the resentments that have built up will lead to carnage unless someone can get between the Sunnis and Alawites and protect them.
Assad feels a strong kinship with his co-religionists and unless Kerry can come up with a magic formula that will protect the Alawites from the fury of Sunni radicals while keeping jihadists from dominating a post-Assad Syria, Assad isn't going anywhere.
For the rebels, it's simple: Any proposal that doesn't include Assad's ouster is DOA - mostly because they don't trust him. And the Russians won't give in unless they can be reasonably certain their alliance with Syria won't be destroyed if Assad were to leave.
It's a situation that only a Pollyanna could believe will work out fine in the end.