December 26, 2012 | Quote

John Kerry’s Challenges Ahead

“Kerry’s not going to surprise Obama the way Madeleine Albright surprised Bill Clinton over Kosovo,” said Kori Schake, a Hoover Institution fellow who served as foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.

The Obama administration is growing closer and closer to the Syrian opposition, even considering providing them with American weapons. But Kerry was a key interlocutor between Obama’s White House and President Bashir Assad, holding five meetings with the Syrian dictator since 2009.

A photo of Kerry and his wife dining with Assad and his wife, apparently taken in Damascus in 2009, has been widely circulated on the Internet and has come to symbolize that the Obama administration’s first instinct is to cozy up to Assad’s regime.

“The great thing about the Kerry nomination is how much credibility he will have with the new Syrian government after Assad falls,” Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies wrote sarcastically on Twitter Friday.

Others say the baggage Kerry carries on the issue is essentially the same as much of the world, which spent decades trying to entice Syria into a peace deal with Israel.

“Once he’s secretary of State, they’d get over it,” Gelb said, referring to those in the Syrian opposition who might bear a grudge. “It’s even what the Israelis wanted, so it’s hard to hit him on that count.”


Obama’s facing a major decision about how quickly to draw down the remaining 68,000 troops in Afghanistan and how many the U.S. will seek to leave there after the end of American combat operations there that Obama has pledged will take place in 2014.

“John Kerry will have a lot to do with the negotiation of the Status of Forces Agreement for the follow-on mission,” said Crowley.

Kerry is also expected to continue his work to repair the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, which remains strained over a series of incidents including the stealthy U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO forces in an incident near the Afghan border last November.

Kerry “would spend more time on Afghanistan and Pakistan than [Clinton] did. She did just enough to prevent catastrophe, but I think he would try to do more,” Gelb said.

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