John Kerry says Syria has crossed ‘world’s red line’
Key Senate committee urged to send ‘unmistakable message’ on use of chemical weapons
Senior Obama administration figures have pushed US senators to support military strikes against Syria, arguing that the Assad regime has crossed the “world’s red line” by using chemical weapons.
In the US administration’s most high-profile push for Congressional support for “limited” military action, secretary of state John Kerry urged a key Senate committee to send an “unmistakable message” that when the US says “never again” on chemical weapons, it must mean “never means never.”
Mr Kerry pressed for action against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad during an appearance before the Senate foreign relations committee whose support may help sway the US Congress to back the president.
US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, accompanied Mr Kerry in making the case for action.
Most senators appeared to support action, hours after Mr Obama secured the key backing of two top-ranking Republicans in the House of Representatives following the president’s decision to seek Congressional support to act against Assad.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner and the majority leader in the House Eric Cantor said they would support Mr Obama.
The lobbying effort continued as UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon warned that any “punitive” action could be illegal without the approval of UN security council or a justifiable case for self-defence.
Mr Kerry said the debate on Syria was not about Mr Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons, a reference to the president’s warning against Assad last year. “This debate is about the world’s red line. It’s about humanity’s red line,” he said. America cannot be “spectators to slaughter,” he said.
Assad’s use of chemical weapons was “beyond any reasonable doubt,” he said. Recalling the vote for war against Iraq in 2003, Mr Kerry said that he and Mr Hagel, as former senators, were “especially sensitive” to asking Congress to “take a vote on faulty intelligence.”
As the Obama administration pushes for political support, an ABC News poll found almost six in 10 Americans oppose the US hitting Syria alone.