WASHINGTON Hillary Clinton said Iran has increased the number and quality of weapons it sends Syria’s President Bashar Assad, underscoring a top challenge facing John Kerry, her successor as U.S. secretary of state.
The Iranian government is also aiding Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group that backs Assad, Clinton said Thursday in her final interview before leaving office.
“We know that the Iranians are ’all-in’ for Assad” and that keeping their closest ally in the Middle East in power “is one of their highest priorities,” said Clinton, whose last day after four years as America’s top diplomat is Friday.
Clinton, who is scheduled to make farewell remarks to State Department employees in Washington on Friday afternoon, rejected criticism that she and President Barack Obama’s administration haven’t done enough to support the uprising against Assad that began in March 2011 or to hasten the regime’s downfall.
Asked whether she regretted not doing more to end the bloodletting, Clinton replied, “I did everything that I possibly could” as secretary of state since the conflict began.
Kerry, who will be sworn in late Friday, will confront challenges that go well beyond the Syrian civil war. Other unfinished business includes nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, as well as the future of Afghanistan after U.S. and international combat forces withdraw by the end of 2014.