More foreign policy brilliance from John François Kerry

From The Wall Street Journal:

Kerry Opens Syria Talks by Saying Assad Must Go
U.S., Syrian Diplomats Clash as Conference Begins
By Jay Solomon | Updated Jan. 22, 2014 12:38 p.m. ET

MONTREUX, Switzerland—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off a long-awaited international conference aimed at ending the Syrian civil war by demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem immediately challenged Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, accusing the U.S. and its Middle East allies, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, of supporting terrorist groups seeking to destabilize the Damascus regime.

The early clash displayed the deep divisions between the Syrian government and its political opponents, calling into question whether even moderate successes can be achieved in the first talks between the regime and opposition members in nearly three years of conflict.

The U.S. and Russian governments have worked for more than 18 months to convene the conference that opened in the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux. The primarily goal is to establish a transitional political body with executive powers that will end nearly 15 years of Mr. Assad’s rule.

More at the link.

Remember what happened to Hosni Mubarak? He stepped down — though hardly voluntarily; he had lost the support of the military — following 18 days of demonstrations, and wound up being put on trial and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was vacated, but he is still under house arrest and could well be tried again.1

How about Muammar Qadafi? Once he lost in the civil war, he was dragged from hiding and beaten to death. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia managed to escape and flee to Saudi Arabia, but has been tried in absentia and sentenced to life in prison if he’s ever captured. Ali Abdullah Saleh is hanging on in Yemen, out of office but protected by a law which gave him immunity from prosecution.

Bashar al Assad? All that awaits him is the prison cell, the bullet or the noose, if he leaves office. Given that rather obvious fact, who on God’s earth could (reasonably) expect him to agree to step down until he and his forces are actually defeated in the field?

Now, it’s always possible that someone could have a moment of clarity, and remember some more distant history. In 1979, Idi Amin was forced to flee Uganda, and wound up living in Saudi Arabia, where the royal family gave him exile and an allowance on which he could live in comfort, on the condition tat he stay out of politics. Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti and lived for many years in (unofficial) exile in France.2 An offer of permanent asylum with a decent life style somewhere could work for President Assad, but there are hundreds of Syrian officials who wouldn’t be offered a luxurious exile, and would face justice themselves if they surrender. For these hard men, it’s better to fight on, and perhaps be killed or perhaps win, than it is to give up and face nearly-certain punishment.
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  1. He is currently 85 years old, and in poor health.
  2. Stupidly enough, he returned to Haiti, and is supposed to be tried.


  1. Qaddafi actually did have the opportunity to leave early, before the fall of Tripoli. ot at least ask for it, but the head of the Russian chess federation visited him and found he wasn’t interested. After the fall of Tripoli, the U.S. and his Libyan enemies weren’t interested. It’s actually a tradeoff for avoiding more bloodshed.

    As I said on Patterico, Obama and Kerry are just dealing in unreality, in order to avoid making decisions.

    Saying Assad should “leave” just begs the issue – he faces war crimes trials and life in prison at best, unless they are prepared to prepare for him a place of exile, and I don’t see Kerry talking about anything like that.

    You might be able to do this quietly, but then why bother with these talks until this has been arranged?

    Just beause Assad has not been indicted, either for the Hariri murder in Lebanon in 2005, or for what he’s done now in Syria, doesn’t mean he won’t be if he leaves power. Do they think he has the word STUPID written on his forehead??

    Even if there is no evidence right now, let’s say, connecting Bashir Assad directly to the chemical weapons attacks in 2012, or the starvation and false safe conducts going on now, not to mention a whole bunch of things that happened during the course of the war, there will be if he leaves!

    I think actually it might even be possible to sell Assad on a good prison, but you have to try to make the sale.

    Of course, he’d have to be near losing. It could happen sooner if he was afraid the offer might be withdrawn and that losing was inevitable.

    When they are near losing it all, it gets easy. I think that’s why Idi Amin left. His exile was in Saudi Arabia. Jean-Claude (baby Doc) Duvalier, Augusto Pinochet didn’t really have the same kind of accusations against them.

  2. Bashir Assad actually probably isn’t the worst syrian. he gotito this a bt late. You do need to make the rest of the important people go, too. Iran will certainly find someone to endorse.

  3. Kerry, Obama and Biden are so far in water over their heads that the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean isn’t deep enough.

    Mariana Trench

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Coordinates: 11°21′N 142°12′E
    Location of the Mariana Trench

    The Mariana Trench or Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. It is located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. The trench is about 1,580 mi long but has an average width of only 43 mi. It reaches a maximum-known depth of 6.831 mi (36,069 ± 131 ft) at the Challenger Deep, a small slot-shaped valley in its floor, at its southern end, although some unrepeated measurements place the deepest portion at 6.85 mi.

    That’s how deep underwater they are.

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