Martin Bashir | March 01, 2013
>>> newly appointed secretary of state john kerry has been holding urgent talks with his turk yir counterparts on the continuing bloodshed in syria. on a day when rebels claimed the assad regime executed 72 people and burned their bodies, the united nations secretary-general says there is a very small window of opportunity for talks between the syrian government and opposition. words echoed by the secretary of state during a joint press conference.
>> there is no legitimacy in a regime that commits atrocities against its own people, and we need to continue to work to make certain that the assad regime makes a different set of choices.
>> michael o'hanlon is a senior policy fellow at the brookings institution . mike, the administration has approved, as you know, another $60 million in aid to the syrian opposition, but it's humanitarian aid . given news of this latest atrocity, do you think the pressure is growing for some kind of military support, perhaps even intervention?
>> martin, it's a great question, and the answer is i doubt it, not yet. i think you could hear that in john kerry 's choice of words a moment ago in what you played. he said we need to get the assad regime to make a different set of choices. i thought he was going to say we need to get the assad regime to collapse or to go away or at least assad to go into exile. he didn't say that. he may have said that in a different part of the press conference to be fair, but in other words we are still ambivalent about how much we care about this particular war, how willing we are to get more engaged, and also, of course, whether we want to play hardball with russia or hope that russia sort of comes over and helps us just by a change of its own heart.
>> i was going to mention the russians , mike, because the russians have criticized any support for the syrian opposition saying it will only encourage further violence. so is the russian position that we just sit back and watch their friend and ally, president assad , murder his own people?
>> yeah, i'm afraid it is. i think the russians have been of the view that assad can probably ride this out. we've been of the view that assad will fall quickly, and we've both been wrong. i think that both sides have, frankly done mediocre military analysis because here we are two years in. it's a stalemate and, therefore, your question i think is very apropos. will humanitarian aid really be enough to tip the tied of battle? i'm skeptical. i think if we really care about driving assad out of power or even convincing the russians to put more leverage against this problem and try to coerce assad into exile, we're going to have to show a little more willingness to step it up. that's my gut view.
>> right. now, although this is an escalating crisis, the turkish prime minister seems more obsessed with israel saying earlier this week referring to zionism as a crime against humanity. john kerry denounced those comments as objectionable. doesn't this speak to the complexity of a region where america wants to deal with the turkish government which chooses to launch verbal assaults against israel.
>> exactly. i think secretary kerry did a great job. that's a beautiful way of saying you're not making any sense, mr. prime minister, but i also don't want to get into a spat with you unnecessarily because we still need turkey's help. i don't see any solution to this problem without turkey playing a role. however, i doubt that turkey can be the leader in a sl lution for the kinds of reasons that we saw reflected in mr. erdogan's comments. i don't think turkey necessarily has a fully balanced view on either the arab/israeli peace process or on syria for that matter. while he can be helpful, going to have to i think rise above these internal squabbles and show some real leadership.
>> michael o'hanlon, we're grateful for your expertise. thank you.