Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sits down with former CIA analyst and acclaimed journalist Ray McGovern to discuss Secretary of State John Kerry’s March 22-25 visit to Russia, to speak with his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, about negotiating a peace in Syria, facilitating a political transition in the country, and jointly combating Daesh.
What is the purpose of John Kerry’s Visit to Moscow? What is his mission?
"His mission depends on who he is working for," opened McGovern, "I hope he is working for President Obama and not the neocons for who he has taken orders in the past."
McGovern explained that over two years ago the US almost edged into a military quagmire in Syria at the behest of Kerry, the primary cheerleader of a forceful ousting of Bashar al-Assad. "Kerry participated in the effort to mousetrap Obama into making outward war on Syria. On the 30th of August Kerry said, 35 times, that Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for the chemical attacks outside of Damascus." The truth of Kerry’s assertions was quickly called into question.
"President Obama recently told Jeffrey Goldberg that the head of national intelligence rushed to him that week and said, 'Mr. President, I know the Secretary has been blaming this chemical weapons incident on Bashar al-Assad but you should know that this time, let me put it this way, it is not a slam dunk, Mr. President,'" recalled McGovern.
"That meant, of course, that at the time the evidence about who did the chemical attack was very elusive and we now know or are virtually 90% certain that it wasn’t Assad, it was the rebels," said McGovern. From this experience, President Obama became more skeptical of his Secretary of State, and kept Kerry on a tighter leash.
McGovern claimed that, during President Obama’s 2013 visit to St. Petersburg, it was Putin who talked Obama out of going into full-scale war against the Syrian regime. "Putin said to Obama, about Kerry, 'He’s lying, he knows he is lying, and this is very sad,'" said McGovern.
What Happened on Obama’s Trip to St. Petersburg in 2013?
"Putin and Obama took it upon themselves to work out an easy resolution because the Russians had been working with President Bashar al-Assad to get his chemical weapons destroyed. So, Putin pulled Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire and they were destroyed on American ships on purpose."
Brian Becker inquired, "You are saying that Obama lost confidence in Kerry and the US didn’t go to war because Russia offered us a face-saving way out, the destruction of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction?"
"Yes," answered McGovern, "Kerry had said there was 'nothing in the cards that would prevent the US from declaring war on Syria because Assad would not get rid of his chemical weapons,'" adding that, "But, right that very day, Obama and Putin had worked out an arrangement with the Syrians that they would destroy all of the chemical weapons. That was sort of John Kerry’s Call-to-Jesus moment."
So what should we now expect from Kerry’s meeting in Russia?
"It seems as though Kerry found religion, Obama has given him tasks to do and he has carried them out in contrast to that earlier episode two and a half years ago," noted McGovern, optimistically. “A lot depends on Kerry with this trip,“ he added, "Putin is not going to meet with Kerry unless he is ensured that Obama is playing with straight cards now and is not going to defer to Kerry."
McGovern does expect that both sides will come to an agreement on how to move forward in Syria, at least in the near term. "There are the makings of a deal there. That started when Obama met with Putin on the 28th of September last year and Putin said ‘hey by the way, Mr. President, I think I ought to tell you ahead of time that we are going to bomb the hell out of ISIS in two days, that’s why we have all of the aircraft in," the analyst noted. From there, he suggested, cooperation between the White House and the Kremlin on Syria began.
According to McGovern, Obama said, "alright, I’ll have Kerry meet with Lavrov, we’ll work it out and we’ll deconflict the airstrikes and then we’ll work it out." As McGovern recounts, Kerry followed instructions and together with Lavrov came to an agreement, although there are now concerns that the US is dragging their feet on enforcing the peace.
McGovern believes that Kerry is in Moscow because the Russian President has concerns about the US "kowtowing" to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Israel. Russia will call on the US to rein in Turkey and follow through on whatever deal is mapped out between Kerry and Lavrov, McGovern said.
The analyst expressed concern about the viability of any peace agreement in Syria because of what he suspects is an increasingly ineffectual White House. "There is no Obama Administration. There is Obama and there are those clowns advising him on foreign policy. The question is whether he will rise to the occasion. He faces these people down every now and then but is often just an inch short of war."
Whether peace in the region will last depends, in McGovern’s view, on who Kerry’s masters are. "Whether Kerry will follow Obama’s instructions, whether they will actually achieve progress on Syria or Ukraine, remains to be seen."