One-on-one with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Published Wednesday, March 9, 2016 10:13PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 9, 2016 10:18PM EST
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau begins his official, three-day visit to the United States, CTV’s Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme sat down with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for a wide-ranging interview.
LaFlamme asked Kerry about the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants, the Syrian refugee crisis and the U.S. administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.
LaFlamme: Let’s start with certainly news of the day out of Iran, and state media reporting that they've test-launched missiles and Vice-President Biden saying the U.S. will take action. So what kind of action are we talking about?
Kerry: Well, Iran knows that under the United Nations Security Council, that is a violation. And in addition, under the agreement that we reached, we kept the embargo in place with respect to missile launches for 8 years so it's also, while not a violation of the nuclear agreement, it's a violation of the concept that was embraced within it.
So undoubtedly, if confirmed -- and we're doing the homework to make sure everybody knows what they're talking about -- this will invite, I'm confident, additional measures by the United States and perhaps by others.
LaFlamme: So sanctions, then. More sanctions then would be the action?
Kerry: Indeed. As well as, I mean this will certainly build support for greater vigilance and more action. It's unfortunate they've chosen to proceed.
LaFlamme: Also news today that an ISIS captive has suggested, a chemical weapons expert, that mustard gas will be used in Iraq. Now Canada just pulled our CF-18s out. We're putting hundreds of special forces in. So first of all, can you confirm those reports...
Kerry: No, I can't... Let me just first of all, I want to thank Canada for its significant contribution from day one for the effort to fight against Daesh. And we welcome Prime Minister Trudeau's significant package that he's put together in order to contribute to this effort. And we will, I'm confident, over a period of time, defeat Daesh. I have no doubt about it.
There are some reports that have been circulating about the potential use by the Assad regime or by Daesh or the opposition even, on some occasions of some kind of gas. In some cases, it has been deemed to be chlorine mixed in a certain way. But there are also allegations regarding mustard gas and those are being thoroughly examined and checked out by the chemical weapons folks.
LaFlamme: Sounds like it'll be a lot more dangerous though, Canada's new mission.
Kerry: Well, not necessarily. We don't know, there's no indication of some widespread use against people or something, but it's something that is being checked out.
LaFlamme: Now the U.S. actually abandoned that whole training mission in lieu of weapons and ammo about six months ago. So it almost seems like Canada's new mission is out of step with what the Americans have already seen as ineffective.
Kerry: No, on the contrary. In fact, today's newspapers have a story about General Austin, our [Central Command] commander, starting up again the effort to train, but to do it in a more effective, targeted way. So we do believe that training is critical. Plus, the distinction between training those people who were going to train to be part of the opposition against Assad and training the Iraqi military, which has been steadily improving and growing in its capacity, moving now against Hit town in Iraq and having liberated Ramadi, having liberated Tikrit and eventually moving on Mosul. So this training is a very, very key element and a very needed element in the overall strategy against Daesh.
LaFlamme: And on the overall strategy about Syria, the ceasefire. The talks start again Monday. The ceasefire is holding. But you've already said if it fails, there's a Plan B, partition. And I wonder how you see that as effective in tackling ISIS.
Kerry: Well, we haven't ever articulated a Plan B. People have talked about the possibility of a Plan B, obviously, if plan a fails. But nobody has laid out the elements of that plan at this point in time. There's been some public speculation about it. And I am not talking about, nor are any of the members of the international Syria support group talking about a partition. That has not been on the table. We are talking about keeping … Syria whole as a united nation, secular nation, protecting all minorities in which the people of Syria can choose their future leadership. That is all that has been on the table thus far.
LaFlamme: And have you backed away then from regime change?
Kerry: No, what we've talked about is Assad change. We want to preserve the institutions of the government. We don't want a complete implosion in Syria. We need to have some continuity. But Assad cannot stay at the head of that and that is the whole concept behind the Geneva negotiations. It is to put in place a transitional governing council.
Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar... all the countries that are part of the international Syria support group have signed up to this concept, writ large, of a transitional governance, which will be by mutual consent by the opposition and the Assad regime, which will then run the show while elections are being set up to take place under a new constitution, in which the people of Syria will choose their own leadership for the future, with the diaspora permitted to vote. That has been specifically been embraced by all of the international Syria support group.
LaFlamme: While all of this is happening, the refugee crisis continues to spiral out of control. Canada has just, you know, just brought in 25,000 but the U.S. resettlement plan is so far behind that. And I wonder … does that undermine all the work that you do?
Kerry: No, not in the least. We really applaud Canada and we have great respect for Canada's humanitarian heart and for the ability that it has shown to try to screen people and bring them in on a rapid basis.
LaFlamme: Why is it so much slower here then?
Kerry: Well, it's because, I think that we go through a different kind of intergovernmental agency process. We have a different approach to it. But we are working very, very closely with Canadian authorities, co-operating hand-in-hand to make certain that background checks that are extremely thorough are being performed. And I think it's safe to say that refugees coming in undergo a far more exhaustive analysis of their backgroud than any other kind of traveler in the world today.
LaFlamme: Certainly, you know, under the current election campaign going on, Donald Trump has been anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and you know, the world has been sort of looking back saying, “What's happened to America?” Do you feel though, as some of your world counterparts say, that he is a threat to peace and prosperity, which is the very work you spend day in and day out working on?
Kerry: Well, people are going to make their own judgments about Donald Trump, both here and abroad. And because we're in the middle of an election process and I am the secretary of state and I try to work on a bipartisan basis with everybody, I just don't step in the middle of the campaign in anyway whatsoever, obliquely or otherwise, so...
LaFlamme: Can you give us any insight into this phenomenon?
Kerry: The insight, sure. There's a great anger out there. And I understand the anger as a former nominee of my party and privileged to run for president. And people are feeling Washington hasn't delivered. And there is a sense of frustration and it falls on both sides of the aisle. I mean you see this in both parties.
The American people are very, very wise and ultimately, this is the most serious of elections and we come in with two candidates or more if there are more. The American people will focus in and I believe, as they always have, they'll make a judgment that will reflect the American people's wishes and desires and I hope that it will be a decision that will obviously, ultimately meet the approval of the world. But we won't know that until we have nominees and we have the final moments in October and November.
LaFlamme: Fascinating process to watch. You know, in Canada there's a sense...
Kerry: Fascinating is one word for it. (laughter)
LaFlamme: Got a better word?
Kerry: No, not today. (laughter)
LaFlamme: I'll ask you that again in the future. But you know, there's a sense that Washington almost failed Canada in a sense when it comes to Keystone [pipeline]. I want to bring that up.
Kerry: Sure, go ahead please.
LaFlamme: In your opinion, is that deal dead?
LaFlamme: There's no way that would be revived in the future if there were a new plan to move forward with it?
Kerry: Well, not in this administration, but... look we have some 300 pipelines I think, if I recall correctly. This one is with respect to a particular kind of fuel. And the decision was made because President Obama and this administration and in my job as secretary, believe very, very deeply that we need to move away from high carbon footprint into low carbon, alternative renewable energy sources. And we must try to set an example and do that as fast as possible.
We're living in a new world. A very new world. Just yesterday, it was reported this winter has been the warmest winter in recorded history. Every month, you pick up the paper and you read that the last month was the warmest month in history. This has been true now for 10 successive years, for 11 years, 12 years. This is happening. People have to respond to this. We are seeing the consequences of this in so many different ways. The Arctic ice melt, increased fires, increased intensity of storms, sea level rise, species that are moving from where they are today to new locations to survive. I mean, run the list. It is compelling that we humans are contributing to this crisis. And we must begin to have a lower carbon footprint and begin to deal with this. That's why we moved.
I'm confident... I know from my conversations with your Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and I know your environment minister are both deeply committed to dealing with climate change. Canada is committed to this. We need to work together to apply new technologies to help us deal with carbon. To find some unfound method yet of perhaps burning coal clean. I don't know what it's going to be. I know that we humans have this incredible capacity for innovation and entrepreneurial activity. And if we will apply ourselves to the effort over the next years, we have an unbridled energy future of huge possibilities. Great economic growth, by the way. Unbelievablenumbers of jobs to be created, but to do so with a low carbon output. That's the mission and we all have to embrace it.
LaFlamme: Thank you.