By Claude Salhani - Trend:
News of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stating that the United States needs to talk to Syrian President Bashar Assad must have been received in Damascus with much jubilation. After years of being ignored by most of the international community, of being shunned , Washington had suddenly reversed the tables. And all it took was a short phrase from the secretary of State."We have to talk to Assad," said Kerry.
Kerry's statement is important because it gives the Syrian president a new doze of legitimacy that he badly needed. Assad had become a political pariah. Neither Washington, nor London or Paris would talk to him. In fact, not only would they not talk to him, but were trying to remove him from power. Now these few words changes everything. Possibly.
However, this statement could also prove to be counter-productive in the long run as it will undoubtedly frighten some rebel groups who, fearful of a government reclaiming the upper hand in the conflict, could be tempted to join forces with the Islamic State group, rendering this terrorist organization even more powerful.
That in turn would be more problematic for the pro-democracy forces and for the Western powers.
As the civil war in Syria progressed the US and its Western allies, as well as Turkey and several Arab countries pushed for the removal of Assad, yet the Syrian president held on to power refusing to budge and that, despite the staggering number of casualties. International organizations estimate the number of killed in the four-year war has surpassed the 290,000, while the number of wounded hovers around the one million mark.
Kerry's statement surprised and infuriated many people in the region.
"We have to talk to Assad," said the U.S. chief diplomat. Those six little words have drew statements of anger and surprise from many who hoped that a coordinated policy would finally remove Assad from power.
"I can't find the appropriate words to express my anger at Kerry's last stance," said Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, someone who is rarely, if ever, at a loss of words. Kerry and presumably his boss President Barak Obama, fail to realize just how damaging those six little words can be, and will be. With those little six words US political credibility lost much of its clout - or what was left of it. One of the immediate negative impacts from this might send rebel forces who were previously opposed to IS now looking to reach a compromise before they get left out completely in the cold. As far as political gaffs go this was indeed a major one and the consequences will be felt in the weeks months and years to come.
For weeks on end the Obama administration had failed to say anything about the war in Syria and we're criticized for failing to have a coherent policy. Now that they have spoken it would have perhaps been far better if they had remained silent.
Claude Salhani is senior editor at Trend Agency and a political analyst. You can follow Claude on Twitter @ClaudeSalhani.