John Kerry had a strong message for President Bashar al-Assad: Syria has one week to turn over its chemical weapons or the United States will attack.
The US Secretary of State said he had no doubt that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack earlier this year in Damascus and that the Syrian government had to be held responsible for its actions.
Kerry said: “We need to hear an appropriate outcry as we think back on those moments of history when large numbers of people have been killed because the world was silent… The Holocaust, Rwanda, other moments, are lessons to all of us today.”
The Secretary of State, who was speaking alongside UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in London, said that the US intelligence community unanimously agreed that Assad was involved in the chemical weapons attack.
Kerry insisted that Syria had to be punished for killing its own citizens, but the US State Department made it clear in a statement that Kerry’s one week deadline for Syria to turn over its weapons was a “rhetorical argument.”
The State Department said: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.”
The Senate is set to vote this week on an attack on Syria. Kerry said that if the United States does plan an attack on Syria it will be “unbelievably small.”
Kerry said: “We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”
Russia is also hoping that Syria will chose to turn over its weapons. Russia proposes that Syria place its chemical weapons under international control in order to avoid military action from the United States.
Obama said in an interview with CNN today that he would support Russia’s proposal to have Syria turn its weapons over to the international community.
Obama said: “I think it’s certainly a positive development when, the Russians and the Syrians both make gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons. This is what we’ve been asking for not just over the last week or the last month, but for the last couple of years.”