Published time: September 19, 2013 20:08
US Secretary of State John Kerry.( AFP Photo / Kenzo Tribouillard)
Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday again blamed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime for a chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus last month and pressed for the United Nations to act on eradicating that arsenal immediately.
In a brief address that afternoon, Sec. Kerry said that the
recently released UN report regarding the August 21 strike in
Syria confirmed the White House’s allegations that Assad and his
army were responsible for the attack.
“Thanks to this week’s long awaited UN report, the facts in
Syria only grew clearer and the case only grew more
compelling,” Kerry said from Washington. “The UN report
confirms unequivocally that chemical weapons, including the nerve
agent sarin, were used in Syria.”
An international debate over the Aug. 21 incident has dominated
discussions between world leaders in the weeks since, and the
United States appeared on the verge of launching a limited strike
against Assad’s regime to reprimand him for the alleged use of
chemical weapons until a deal largely brokered in part by Russia
yielded an agreement in the making that will require the Syrian
leader to relinquish his arsenal and sign the Chemical Weapons
Convention prohibiting the use of those warheads.
Assad appeared on Fox News Wednesday night and admitted to having
chemical weapons, though remains adamant with regards to denying
responsibility for the Aug. 21 strike.
“This fight about Syria’s chemical weapons is not a game,”
Kerry said Thursday afternoon. “It’s real. It’s important.
It’s important to the lives of people in Syria; it’s important to
Speaking of the chemical weapons prohibition, Kerry said,
“it’s important to the world that this be enforced.”
The UN’s findings, Kerry insisted, “Confirms what we have
brought to the attention of our Congress, the American people and
the rest of the world,” citing evidence obtained by the
international body linking the munitions and launchers involved
in last month’s attack to Assad’s regime.
But although the UN report did not outright tie Assad’s army to
the Aug. 21 assault that kill more than 1,400 Syrians, Kerry
suggested that evidence collected from outside of Damascus —
including witness reports, interviews and physiological and
environmental samples — ties the attack to Assad.
“Anybody who reads the facts and puts the dots together, which
is easy to do and they made it easy to do, understands what those
facts mean,” Kerry said.
The report, he added, contained “several crucial details that
confirmed that the Assad regime is guilty of carrying out that
attack, even though that was not the mandate of the UN
“We, the United States, have associated one of the munitions
identified in the UN report, the 122mm improvised rocket, with
previous Assad regime attacks,” he said.
“There is no indication, none, that the opposition is in
possession or has launched a chemical weapon variant of these
rockets, such as the kind that was used in the twenty-first of
There is “clear and compelling evidence that the
surface-to-surface rockets used in this attack contained
the nerve agent sarin. We know the Assad regime possesses
sarin, and there is not a shred of evidence however that the
opposition does,” he said.
“And rocket components identified in the ground photos taken
at the alleged chemical weapons impact areas,” he continued,
are “associated with the unique type of rocket launcher that
we know the Assad regime has.”
“So there you have it. Sarin was used. Sarin killed. The world
can decide whether it was used by the regime — which has used
chemical weapons before, the regime which had the rockets and the
weapons —or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into
territory they don’t control to fire rockets they don’t have
containing sarin they don’t possess to kill their own
people,” the secretary said.
Kerry’s remarks came less than a day after Assad admitted to Fox
News that he holds on to an arsenal of chemical weapons and would
be willing to destroy it following weeks of international
discussion that has pitted lawmaker against lawmaker and nation
against nation on the eve of what for long appeared to be an
imminent US strike.
Earlier on Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney
mocked Assad for denying responsibility for the chemical weapons
attack last month and said that the US remains interested in
working with the Russians on a framework to implement a program
that would identify, verify and remove from Assad’s control the
chemical weapons stockpile in that country.
When asked if US President Barack Obama would agree to help pay
the estimated one billion dollars Assad told Fox dismantling the
arsenal would cost, Carney said, “This is obviously a
complicated piece of business.”
As the international community waits for an outcome, though,
Kerry urged the UN to act quickly. Assad suggested that
dismantling his arsenal could take up to a year, but the
secretary said the UN’s Security Counsel “must be prepared to
act next week.”
“It is vital for the international community to stand up and
speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of
enforceable action to rid the world of Syria’s chemical
weapons,” Kerry said Thursday.
“Time is short. Let’s not spend time debating what we already
know,” he added. “The complete removal of Syria’s chemical
weapons is possible here through peaceful means, and that will be
determined through the resolve of the United Nations.”