US presents its case against Syria, leaving little doubt of military action (+video)
In a detailed and impassioned speech, Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the evidence against the regime in Syria, arguing that war fatigue ‘does not absolve us of our responsibility’ to respond.
The Obama administration offered on Friday its evidence of “large-scale” use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through a detailed and impassioned statement by Secretary of State John Kerry. His statement left very little doubt that the US will take action in the coming days to hold the Syrian regime accountable.Skip to next paragraph
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Secretary Kerry called on the American people to “read for yourselves” the “verdict of our intelligence community” that chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime on Aug. 21 against a wide swath of Damascus suburbs.
Disclosing higher casualty figures from the attacks than previously cited, Kerry said the US was certain of at least 1,429 Syrians killed in the early-morning attacks – at least 426 of whom he said were children.
But he said the question now is, “What are we and the world going to do about it?”
Insisting that the answer to that question “matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States,” Kerry said the US could not look the other way as one “brutal despot” crossed the “clear red line against chemical weapons use” that the world has laid down over the past century.
If the US stood by and did nothing, there would be “no end to the testing of our resolve,” Kerry said, and not just in Syria. Offering one example, he said that in the absence of any consequences for Mr. Assad, Iran would be “emboldened ... to obtain nuclear weapons.”
Kerry’s argument for action was the administration’s response to a vocal minority from Congress and a number of prominent US foreign-policy analysts who say the administration has not offered a convincing argument that US national-security interests are at stake in Syria’s civil war or, specifically, as a result of the apparent use of chemical weapons there.
The US has stayed out of the brutal, region-destabilizing civil war that has left more than 100,000 people dead, and some analysts see no reason that chemical weapons use makes US involvement any more compelling.
Some members of Congress, while agreeing with the administration that Assad must not be allowed to use chemical weapons with impunity, say that the intelligence briefings the administration is offering are not enough. They insist that President Obama still must seek congressional authorization before any military action is launched.
"Though consulting with Congress is helpful, it is in no way an adequate substitute for President Obama obtaining statutory authority from Congress prior to the use of military force, as required by the Constitution," said Rep. Scott Rigell (R) of Virginia in a statement issued after Kerry’s comments. As of Friday, Representative Rigell’s letter calling on Mr. Obama to secure congressional authorization had been signed by 140 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats.
White House officials maintained Friday afternoon that Obama has not made a decision on launching airstrikes against Syrian military installations in retaliation for the chemical attacks.
In brief comments before a White House meeting Friday with the leaders of Baltic states, the president sought to reassure Americans that any action he decides on will be targeted and of short duration. "We’re not considering any open-ended commitment. We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach,” he said.