- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is in Syria "to investigate conditions on the ground" on behalf of his Syrian-American constituents and held a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad. If these quotes from the state-sponsored Syrian news wire SANA are to be believed, Assad must have made quite an impression:
"There are some who want to give a wrong picture about what is going on in Syria," Kucinich said in a press conference held on Tuesday at the Four Seasons Hotel, adding that things should be left to the Syrian people, government and leadership to decide for themselves the direction and the way to go for democratic changes.
The U.S. Congressman described what is taking place in terms of the meetings of opposition and independent figures who are expressing themselves and their views openly and freely as "a largely positive progress", saying "President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this."
"President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians," said Kucinich, voicing his belief that people in Syria are seeking a real change which is up to them.
"What I saw in Syria in terms of the open discussion for change demanded by the people and the desire for national dialogue is a very positive thing," said the U.S. official, adding "Syria has gone through hard times…However, I believe there is a very strong desire for unity and democratic change, and the difficulties Syria has faced over the past few months can be overcome."
You do have to consider the source, and "highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians" sounds like a slightly odd sentence for an American politician to say. On the other hand, the comments aren’t that far off from what he said about the situation in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer last month:
Kucinich said protesters in Syria are making legitimate demands for reform, but some there are trying to "capitalize on those legitimate demands for reform and use it push a violent agenda."
"We also understand that there’s very serious questions raised about the conduct of the Syrian police, but we also know the Syrian police were fired upon and that many police were murdered," Kucinich continued.[…]
"I’ve read where President Assad has made certain commitments, and I would imagine that when things finally settle down, that President Assad will move in a direction of democratic reforms," Kucinich said. "He has already made that commitment from what I can see."
A State Department spokesperson was quick to say that Kucinich was not representing the views of the U.S. government and "speaks for himself."