WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration and France reportedly nixed a visit by U.S. Sen. John Kerry to Syria.
Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has cultivated a relationship with the Syrian regime otherwise treated as a pariah in the West in the hope of drawing it away from Iranian influence.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Kerry had planned a visit last month, but the governments of the United States and of French President Nicolas Sarkozy blocked the visit out of concern that it would signal "Western weakness" as pro-Iranian and pro-Western forces jockeyed for influence in Syria’s neighbor, Lebanon.
Anti-government protests have spread in Syria over the last two weeks, part of broader regional unrest. Western governments appear to be approaching the developments with a degree of ambivalence. On the one hand, there is fear of the prospect of a Syria in chaos; on the other hand, a weakened Assad government could be an opportunity for diminishing Iranian influence in Syria.