Syria Transition Deadline Passes, US Makes No Policy Change

Kerry Had Previously Demanded Transition by August 'Or Else'

by Jason Ditz, August 01, 2016

In early May, Secretary of State John Kerry set an ultimatum for the Syrian government, demanding the beginning of a “transition” that would see the removal of President Bashar al-Assad by the target date of August 1 “or else.” Today, the deadline passed.

The response from the US was minimal, with Kerry making some statements issuing his usual demands, but no signs that the US is actually making any changes to its ongoing policy in Syria, let alone the “very different track” that Kerry had threatened before.

It was never clear what the ultimatum really threatened, though suggestions were that the US would transfer even more weapons to the “moderate” rebels, including anti-aircraft missiles, as a way of spiting Syria’s military. The US has been picking up its arms shipments at any rate though, so it’s unclear if anything else is happening, or if anyone would notice if it did.

It’s unlikely the US would do anything too deliberately provocative, however, as they are in the middle of talks with the Russian government on potential joint operations inside Syria, focused on the Nusra Front. It’s unlikely that the US would want to make an overtly hostile move against the Syrian government right now, particularly since their major ongoing fight is against Nusra.

With the election so close, any major changes are probably unlikely until next year. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has talked up a massive shift in the war, aiming to oust the Syrian government militarily, despite that putting the US on a collision course with Russia.

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