In remarks on Monday, Feb 17, Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Russia’s continued support for the Assad regime.  In Jakarta, just before flying to Abu Dhabi, UAE, he said, “They’re, in fact, enabling Assad to double down, which is creating an enormous problem.”

US policy has been, for some time now, to push for a “political” solution to the Syrian Civil War, one in which Assad is deposed.  In fact, Kerry has flatly said several times that Assad can have no place in Syria’s future.  (Rather odd, coming from someone who, as late as 2009, was dining with Assad and his wife, in spite of the Syrian government’s connections with Hezbollah and the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.)  The complaint now is that Russia will not abandon its long-time ally in the region, thus prolonging the war.

Citing “frustration” with Russian support for Assad, the US has reportedly begun talks with the Saudis and Qataris about possible increased support for the Syrian rebels.  The administration is insisting that, contrary to Saudi desires, this support will not extend to more advanced and heavier weapons, such as the Chinese man portable SAMs and Russian anti-tank guided missiles the Saudis have been wanting to supply to the rebels.  (This is, of course, assuming that such supply is not already being moved into the country by the Saudis and Qataris without the US’ say-so)  Instead, the plan is for money, transportation, and intelligence to be funneled to the rebels.

From the above-linked NYT article: Mr. Obama has also been influenced by growing fears that Syria is becoming a training ground for a new generation of terrorists and may become even more of a haven until a political settlement is reached. “That’s one big change from a year ago,” a senior American diplomat said. “And it’s beginning to haunt everyone with memories of Afghanistan.”