It was a deplorable warning that was issued by United States Secretary of State John Kerry to Syrian President Bashar Assad, namely that not exploiting the opportunity of the Geneva 2 conference means the war will continue, and that "there may be more 'ethnic cleansing,' more massacres….Syria may break up into different parts."
Kerry acted as if he was informing Assad that if he did not go along with a political solution, agreed to by Washington and Moscow, at an international conference, the latter would deter Assad from committing more massacres, or frighten him about continuing to fight with an unprecedented ferocity against rebels and civilians. Or, perhaps the "terribleness" of what Kerry was warning against would stop Assad from destroying his country with Scud missiles and barrel bombs, which have turned entire neighborhoods of Syrian cities, and many villages, into rubble. Assad would also refrain from using toxic chemical weapons and Sarin gas, or at least use them sparingly, so that the international community could get used to this aspect of the war raging in Syria.
After the series of "red lines" laid down by President Barack Obama, which ended with living with Assad's crossing of them without their being "game-changers," as Obama himself had previously warned, Kerry is doing nothing except frightening Assad about what he has been doing with no embarrassment ever since the beginning of the uprising in early 2011. Assad and the people around him said that if his opponents want to "take" power from him they will take a Syria that is destroyed. Since the beginning, his entourage has said that he does not care if 50,000 or 100,000 Syrians are killed. His relatives, who keep close by him, never hesitate to predict chaos, and more than one visitor has heard Assad say that if his opponents manage to control Damascus, he will hold out on the Syrian coast and the Alawite Mountains. A few days ago, Assad told his Lebanese allies that tens of thousands of popular militia soldiers had been trained by Iran and would help him achieve victory; he said that he would remain president "because the people love me." He appeared reassured that the stance by western states would remain reluctant to help the armed opposition, "because we have succeeded in putting al-Qaeda in the forefront of the armed (opposition) groups."
Kerry knows all of this well, to the degree that it is disappointing to see what he said this week, warning of division, destruction, and massacres if Assad does not respond to the political solution required by Geneva 2. America and Western Europe fear seeing the chaos that is enveloping Syria spread to the region and neighboring countries, especially Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, has begun to appear, and more clearly.
It is difficult to believe that Kerry and American officials have turned into quasi-war reporters and political analysts, registering their expectations and drawing conclusions, and the tragic humanitarian repercussions of the displaced, unless regional chaos is the implicit goal of Washington and Israel, which is overjoyed to see hostile parties to it being busy with other things.
It is likely that American interests have also intersected with the interests of America's rivals, at a time of negotiations with them, especially Iran. Tehran no longer minds this chaos, as it is committed to Assad's survival in power till the end, and whatever the price. Iran is unconcerned that its influence with the Iraqi authorities is causing a popular movement and conflict between Sunnis and Shiites; it has disturbed the delicate balances of power in Lebanon, by insisting that Hezbollah take part in the war underway in rural Damascus, the city of Qusair, and rural Homs. In fact, Iran has dragged Lebanon toward a political vacuum, thanks to the conditions set by Hezbollah on the parliamentary elections and the formation of the government. This is taking place under the eyes of the Great Powers, which had warned about not holding elections on time, then called for holding them according to legal, constitutional frameworks, which has come to mean an extension of the current Parliament, based on a law that it will enact.
Two things concern Kerry here: the Israeli government should maintain its intervention in the Syrian crisis under the ceiling of targeting special weapons that Assad might transfer to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and not launch any strikes that lead to the fall of the regime. This is what Israeli officials said after the air strike on 5 May. Israel fears the alternative to Assad in power.
The second thing is Washington's determination to enjoy good ties with Russia, so that Russia can help guarantee a safe withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Iran has tools that allow it to launch strikes against these forces during their withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the sometimes-fiery stances by Washington on the Syria crisis appear to be made for "history" alone. Most likely, the price of this policy is that Moscow will play a role with Iran, because of their cooperation with Syria, in pushing Tehran to reduce its intervention against Washington in Afghanistan.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.