Kerry Talks Syria ‘Stalemate’, Political Future

The secretary of State opens up to CNN.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with US Embassy staff during a break in meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on October 12, 2013. President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry held a second day of talks in Kabul Saturday after making progress over a long-delayed deal on the future of US forces in Afghanistan. 
AFP/Getty Images
Jordain Carney
Feb. 6, 2014, 5:09 a.m.

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad “has im­proved his po­s­i­tion” since a deal aimed at dis­mant­ling his coun­try’s chem­ic­al-weapons pro­gram star­ted, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said Wed­nes­day.

“It’s fair to say that As­sad has im­proved his po­s­i­tion a little bit, yes,” Kerry said, dur­ing an in­ter­view with CNN’s Jake Tap­per. “Now, I would de­scribe the situ­ation simply that As­sad is not win­ning, but he’s also not los­ing. It’s sort of a stale­mate at this mo­ment.”

Kerry was asked about Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per’s com­ments at a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing last week. Clap­per said the deal “adds le­git­im­acy” to As­sad’s gov­ern­ment.

Kerry also pushed back against the no­tion that he has differed from Pres­id­ent Obama on how the United States should be in­volved in Syr­ia’s con­flict.

The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment has come un­der in­creas­ing cri­ti­cism for miss­ing dead­lines to turn over its chem­ic­al weapons. It failed to meet Wed­nes­day’s dead­line to give up chem­ic­al ma­ter­i­als, and has, so far, al­lowed just two ship­ments to be taken out of the coun­try.

But United Na­tions Sec­ret­ary-Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon told Re­u­ters on Thursday that he be­lieves the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment can still meet the June 30 dead­line to des­troy its chem­ic­al weapons pro­gram.

The in­ter­view also hit a light­er note, with Kerry say­ing that 2016 han­di­cap­pers can take at least one sec­ret­ary of State off their lists.

“I’m out of polit­ics. I have no plans what­so­ever,” he said, asked if he would con­sider run­ning for pres­id­ent. “This is my last stop. I’m go­ing to serve the coun­try in the ex­traordin­ar­ily priv­ileged po­s­i­tion the pres­id­ent’s giv­en me, the great chal­lenges that I have, and move on.”

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