In a statement that stunned observers, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry announced during a visit to Iraq that it is asking its allies not to send arms and to prevent the flow of arms into Syria. The U.S. policy of not providing direct lethal aid to either side in the Syrian conflict is well known. However, it was widely assumed that the flow of arms from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries had U.S. blessing, particularly in view of the numbers of arms that the U.S. was sending to these countries, as well as U.S. training for Syrian rebels and U.S. intelligence on where best to kill people.
This reporter confirmed with Secretary Kerry that although he was not accusing Iraq of sending arms, he had indeed asked their government to prevent the transport of arms through its territory. Secretary Kerry was also kind enough to grant me an interview to get further details on this amazing development. Here is a transcript of our conversation.
Barb Weir: Mr. Kerry, please explain the U.S. position against sending arms into Syria.
Sec. Kerry: We believe that the flow of arms only prolongs the conflict in Syria and brings more death and suffering to the Syrian people. This is why we asked for Iraq’s assistance in stopping the carnage.
Barb Weir: A lot of people will be glad to hear that. Will you be asking Turkey and other border states to do the same?
Sec. Kerry: As far as we know, Barb, there’s no such problem on the Syrian-Turkish border. We have a lot of our own observers there and Turkey is very cooperative. Same thing in Jordan, and we don’t really need observers in Israel. The Lebanese border is a problem and also some places on Syria’s Mediterranean seacoast.
Barb Weir: I’m surprised, Secretary Kerry. The news reports say there are a lot of arms crossing the Turkish-Syrian border.
Sec. Kerry: That’s true, but none of them are going to Syria.
Barb Weir: They’re going to Turkey?
Sec. Kerry: No, no. They’re going to the valiant fighters from the Saudi Arabian Christian Democratic Republic, the Democratic Commonwealth of Qatar, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and many other defenders of human rights, as well as their Syrian counterparts, in order to end the fighting in Syria.
Barb Weir: So what are the arms that you’re trying to stop?
Sec. Kerry: We’re talking about arms from Iran, Russia and China. Those arms are being used to prevent peace, whereas ours – I mean those of our democratic allies – are in the service of peace.
Barb Weir: Thank you, Mr. Kerry. That makes things much clearer. What was Iraq’s response?
Sec. Kerry: You’re most welcome, Ms. Weir. I’m not sure they understand the importance of cooperation. Unfortunately, we’ve been through that before with Iraq. I do hope that we manage to stop arms to Syria. Otherwise we might ultimately have to send in U.S. forces to bring peace, as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.