against Syria is a question not of if, but when.
Kerry said the White House is consulting with its allies, actively engaging members of Congress and reviewing with the national security team what he called the "moral obscenity" of Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons. But he did not say "alleged." Instead, he said the United States will present "confirmatory evidence" in the days ahead that the regime did, in fact, use "the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people."
Then, he said, it cynically tried a cover-up by shelling the site where those weapons are said to have been used mostly recently—just outside the capital of Damascus—and by delaying a visit by U.N. inspectors for five days. Those inspectors were on the site Monday after coming under sniper fire while in transit.
Kerry said the president "will be making an informed decision about how to respond" and "believes there must be accountability" for any who use chemical weapons. A ban on the use of those weapons, he noted, is something that many nations agree on even when they cannot agree on anything else. Use of chemical arms "defies any code of morality," he said.
That broad consensus against chemical weapons, Kerry said, is one of the reasons President Obama has made it a priority to get rid of them where possible and lock them down elsewhere.
Kerry said he had over the weekend watched videos available on social media of people said to be victims of chemical attacks, including "gut-wrenching" scenes of a father holding up a dead child, people dead in their beds without a drop of blood anywhere, and people's bodies "contorting in spasms."
Please read below the fold for more developments.
NATO has been reluctant to get involved in Syria, but a confirmed use of chemical weapons could change that perspective. Opposition from Russia and probably China means the Security Council will not join in any action against Syria.
Kerry's speech could be seen as much as a message to Moscow, a long-time patron of Syria, as it was to Damascus. A sort of "we're going to take military action," so don't be surprised. Syria has sophisticated Russian-made air defenses. But, these are considered highly vulnerable to preemptive strikes because their radar capabilities are weak. Moreover, their range is inadequate to reach fighter planes using weapons fired from faraway stand-off positions.
Even though Russia has promised to ship even more sophisticated, longer-range ground-to-air missiles guided by more sophisticated radar to Syria, those are not believed to have arrived yet. Russia has previously expressed doubts about Syrian use of chemical arms and is said to have done so again Monday in a phone call Monday with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron's statement:
The Prime Minister called President Putin this afternoon to discuss how the international community responds to the chemical weapons attack in Damascus last Wednesday.The administration has previously said that in Syria there will be no "boots on the ground" as in Iraq and Afghanistan nor a "no-fly zone" as in Libya.
They both reiterated the position agreed by all leaders at the G8 in June: no-one should use chemical weapons and any use would merit a serious response from the international community.
The PM made clear that there was little doubt that this was an attack carried out by the Syrian regime. There was no evidence to suggest that the opposition had the capability to carry out such a significant attack and the regime had launched a heavy offensive in the area in the days before and after the incident. The regime had also prevented UN access in the immediate aftermath, suggesting they had something to hide.
President Putin said that they did not have evidence of whether a chemical weapons attack had taken place or who was responsible.
The Prime Minister will be working from Downing Street tomorrow ahead of a meeting of the National Security Council scheduled for Wednesday. The government will decide tomorrow whether the timetable for our response means it will be necessary to recall MPs sooner than Monday when the House is currently due to return.
Unlike the latter case, Syria has a key ally in the region, Iran. Some tentative hopes of easing long-standing tensions between Washington and Tehran have been voiced since the election of the moderate new president of Iran. U.S. military intervention in Syria could upend that process and possibly even lead to counter-intervention by Iran. As always, interventions often have unintended, although not necessarily unpredictable, consequences.