Secretary of State John Kerry just gave Syria a hard deadline for starting the political transition to get rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad: Aug. 1.
Kerry told reporters Tuesday if Syria doesn’t begin the process of removing Assad by Aug. 1, there will be serious consequences, The Associated Press reports.
“If Assad does not adhere to this, there will clearly be repercussions,” Kerry said. “One of them may be the total destruction of the cease-fire and then go back to war. I don’t think Russia wants that. I don’t think Assad is going to benefit from that. There may be even other repercussions being discussed. That is for the future.”
Kerry emphasized opposition rebels will never put up with Assad staying in power.
“If Assad’s strategy is to somehow think he’s going to just carve out Aleppo and carve out a section of the country, I got news for you and for him: This war doesn’t end,” Kerry said. “As long as Assad is there, the opposition is not going to stop fighting.”
Kerry is ostensibly working on a truce to end the fighting. The existing transition plan, backed by the United Nations, says nothing about forcing Assad to step down.
If Syria ignores Kerry’s demands, the U.S. will completely shift its strategy to the war-torn country that has now suffered through five years of destructive civil war. Kerry also directed his remarks to Russia and Iran, two of Syria’s allies that are propping up the current government.
This isn’t the first time the Obama administration has delivered a soft ultimatum regarding Syria. Previously, the Obama administration promised if Assad used chemical weapons, it would immediately step in. Use of chemicals was supposed to be the red line. Assad tested it, Obama capitulated. Obama’s former Middle East adviser, Philip Gordon, recently blasted him for not deploying military force against Assad after Assad used Sarin gas in 2013, killing around 1,300 people.
The Obama administration has played a politics of reluctance in terms of intervening in foreign conflicts, so it’s unclear if U.S. officials are willing to actually follow through on threats. Special operations troops and other servicemembers deployed so far are by and large in an advisory role to support local troops. The Obama administration has insisted time and time again on specific semantics to avoid saying there are American “boots on the ground” as combat troops on the front lines. The Obama administration has held this line, despite the fact that special operations troops are likely involved in direct combat and are tasked with killing high-value Islamic State targets.
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