Kerry's Words on Assad Draw Scrutiny

GOP senators who favored Sen. John Kerry for Secretary of State drove his most prominent competitor -- U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice -- out of the running.
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Her remark was in the context of comparing Syria and Libya.

Officials for Kerry and Shelby say neither ever referred to Assad as a "reformer."

A few days after Clinton's remarks, Kerry said at a hearing on Syria that "violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable" and took Assad to task for failing to promise significant reforms.

A month later, he backed Obama's imposition of penalties against Syria and said "what is clear is that we need to increase the political and economic pressure so President Assad understands that he must end the violence and embrace reforms."

In August, Kerry echoed Obama's call for Assad to step aside.

The hard-line response was a clear reflection of the international outrage over Assad's unceasing violence against his people. He stood in contrast to previous Kerry's statements.

Shortly after Obama took office, Kerry traveled to Syria in February 2009 to push for Assad to honor Lebanon's independence, to gain Syria's help in getting Hezbollah to disarm and to make inroads in ending its close relationship with Iran. Kerry met with Assad and later said, "We are going to renew diplomacy but without any illusion, without any naivety, without any misplaced belief that, just by talking, things will automatically happen."

In April 2010, Kerry met with Assad in Damascus and described Syria as "an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region."

Daniel Byman, a Georgetown University professor and a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said the criticism Kerry might face in the hearing "will be couched in 'the administration is screwing this up, how will you fix it,' rather than — my impression is Chuck Hagel's (nomination to be defense secretary) will be much rougher. 'You're part of the problem, you're not part of the solution.' With Kerry, I think it's going to be we're delighted you're coming to fix this problem."



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