TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Defends Obama’s Syria Policy

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US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 8, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

The secretary of state said diplomacy has succeeded in reducing Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons in a way that military action never could. He added that diplomatic progress has removed “54%” of the chemical weapons from the conflict

Secretary of State John Kerry beat back Republican charges Tuesday that the Obama Administration has not done enough to end the three-year Syrian civil war that has now killed 150,000 people.

“I know there are a lot of concerns about our Syrian policy,” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. “We have no policy from what I can tell, other than again, allowing people to kill each other off. And us making commitments to the opposition that we do not honor, and leaving them in refugee camps and basically stranded without the support we committed to them on the front end.”

Kerry defended the current strategy as “better” than the solution endorsed by both Kerry and Corker last year to engage in a targeted strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime, saying diplomatic progress has removed “54%” of the chemical weapons from the conflict.

“What’s your take,” challenged Kerry. “Would you rather drop a few bombs, send a message, and then have him [Assad] still with the [chemical] weapons and the capacity to deliver them, or would you rather get all of them out?”

But according to the Wall Street Journal, Kerry and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power have pushed the Pentagon and White House to adopt a much stronger stance, advocating for American military intervention and using special operations forces to train and equip opposition fighters.

“I think there is a capacity to change Assad’s calculation,” said Kerry on Tuesday, when pressed by Corker if he supports military intervention, adding that he would talk about specifics in a classified setting. He said a limited strike “would have had some effect… but it would not have had a devastating impact by which he would have had to recalculate because it wasn’t going to last that long.”

“If Syria is ever going to be resolved, it is going to be through a political process,” Kerry added. “And that political process is now in place, though the moment is not right because we still have to change Assad’s calculation.”

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