US Secretary of State makes eleventh hour plea to Syrian opposition

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends the opening session of the Syrian Donors Conference at Bayan Palace Liberation Hall Photo: Reuters

The most remarkable thing is he felt the need to say it.

An agitated John Kerry strode into the State Department briefing room to remind us that…er... the US is sticking to its policy on Syria.

In particular, on the future of President Bashar Al-Assad.

"Syria has become the strongest magnet in the world today for extremism,'' he said, "so it defies logic to image that those whose brutality created this magnet could lead Syria away from extremism and towards a better future.''

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during his news conference at Syrian Donors Conference at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City Credit: Reuters

He came, said Mr Kerry, to counter recent speculation. I'll sum it up. That because Al-Qaeda related fighters now dominate the rebellion, American might prefer to deal with the devil it knows in Damascus.

That is certainly the suspicion of even the moderate opposition groups that the West has backed, a suspicion fuelled by America's eleventh hour failure to take military action against Assad's chemical arsenal last year.

Crucially these groups have yet to decide to attend next week's peace talks in Geneva. Clearly, Mr Kerry needs them at the table and tonight told them a little of what they want to hear.

They're due to make up their minds tomorrow. But the truth is none of the armed groups doing the actual fighting will attend, and none give Geneva much of a thought as the grim battle on the ground continues.