Veteran diplomat Ambassador Nicholas Burns predicted a "very big, very tough agenda ahead of this new secretary of state during an interview with Andrea Mitchell Monday.
The career foreign service officer and current Harvard Kennedy School professor of international relations praised Kerry's record making him "superbly well-qualified" for the daunting role as the nation's top diplomat.
"He spent nearly 29 years in the Senate, always a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He has been a life-long student of foreign affairs since the time when he was a young boy living with his parents in Germany after the Second World War," said Burns. "He is remarkably well-connected to international leaders, and just knows these issues frontwards and backwards. So I think he is well-prepared. "
One of the most pressing issues facing Kerry on this first week in office: the ongoing bloodshed in Syria during what's now a nearly two-year uprising against the Assad regime.
Does the U.S. need a radical policy shift?
According to Burns, the landscape may dictate a shift.
"I think the administration is going to have to ask itself whether its present policy can work, because Assad is just strong enough to survive, the rebels are not quite strong enough to win this battle," said Amb. Burns. "And meanwhile, more than 60,000 people, many of them civilians, have been killed. A stalemate does not further the interests of the United States. I think they're going to have to reexamine this policy and perhaps look at options that would put us in a more aggressive position, not to put American soldiers on the ground, but to begin to arm at least those factions of the rebel alliance that are truly democratic and not tied to terrorist circles, and there are real concerns there."