Friday, August 30, 2013

US set for Syria strikes after Kerry says evidence of chemical attack is 'clear'

(Guardian) John Kerry advanced what he called a "clear and compelling" case that Syria was responsible for a chemical attack that killed nearly 1,500 people, in a statement on Friday that made clear the US was on the verge of military strikes against the Assad regime.

Speaking in a blunt tones, the US secretary of state branded the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a "thug and a murderer", and said the United States could not stand by and let a dictator get away with such serious crimes.

"History will judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turn a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction," Kerry said in a briefing to reporters at the State Department in Washington.

Pointedly, Kerry made no mention of the decision by the British government to pull out of the coalition, after prime minister David Cameron lost a crucial vote in the House of Commons on Thursday. Instead, Kerry referred to France as the "oldest ally" of the US, after president Fran├žois Hollande pledged support for military action against Syria.

As Kerry spoke, the White House released a an unclassified four-page dossier. The assessment said the US intelligence community had "high confidence" that Assad's forces were behind the attack, which it said killed at least 1,429 Syrians, including at least 426 children.

Obama said that while he had not made a final decision on strikes, he was considering "limited, narrow action" against Syria. "We're not considering any open-ended commitment," he said at a photo opportunity with Baltic leaders. "We're not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach."

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