Entering Syria talks, Kerry hopes to turn all guns on ISIS

US secretary of state will travel to Vienna this week for negotiations on the conflict in Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State John Kerry travels to negotiations in Vienna this weekend with an “action-oriented” strategy, he told a group of Washington scholars on Thursday: To create military facts on the ground advantageous to the diplomatic position of the United States, and to use its influence to turn the forces of all warring parties against Islamic State.
Ahead of the talks, which will include the US , Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, President Barack Obama directed his cabinet to step up his strategy “in all its aspects,” Kerry told the United States Institute of Peace.
“The chance for successful diplomacy depends, in part, on the ability to exert leverage,” he said.
Obama's decision to send “fewer than” 50 American servicemen to advise moderate Syrian rebels on the ground was just one part of this effort, he said, after Russia began its own effort to create “facts on the ground” in Syria by engaging in an air campaign against all forces battling President Bashar Assad.
While Russia and Iran consider Assad the legitimate ruler of Syria – merely stamping out a scourge of terrorism nationwide – the US and its allies in the West, alongside Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, oppose Assad and refuse to entertain his continued reign.
Kerry said that a return to a pre-war Syria was a “non-starter,” but also called on all diplomats traveling to the Austrian capital for talks not to “dig in their heels.”
Parties to the negotiation, he said, are exploring a nationwide cease-fire that would exclude the targeting of Islamic State – a terrorist organization controlling territory in eastern Syria and northern Iraq that is opposed by all nations at the table.
The US proposal undercuts a Russian strategy to target not just Islamic State, but all rebel groups operating in Syria in opposition to Assad.
“Walls of mistrust within Syria, within the region, within the international community are thick, and they are high,” Kerry said.