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September 1, 2013
Saying Syria Used Sarin Gas, Kerry Makes Case for Attack
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MICHAEL R. GORDON
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the administration had new evidence that sarin gas was used in a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government that killed 1,400 people last month, and he predicted that Congress would approve President Obama’s request to use force against Syria when lawmakers return from recess on Sept. 9.
“I can’t contemplate that Congress would turn its back on Israel and Jordan and the allies of the region,” Mr. Kerry said on “Fox News Sunday,” saying that lawmakers had a duty to act to uphold international norms against using chemical weapons. In invoking Israel, Mr. Kerry stressed that it was important to send a tough message to other nations pursuing weapons programs, like Iran and North Korea.
Mr. Kerry, who is planning appearances on all five Washington Sunday-morning talk shows to defend Mr. Obama’s decision to delay a strike on Syria, also sent a pointed warning to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. If Mr. Assad were “foolish enough” to harm his people again, Mr. Kerry said, then Mr. Obama might take military action without waiting for Congress.
“Of course the president of the United States knows we have the power to do this, and I assume he would move very, very rapidly,” Mr. Kerry said.
Mr. Kerry said hair and blood samples from first responders who were helping victims in East Damascus “have tested positive for signatures of sarin.” While it was the first time anyone in the administration had pinpointed the poison, Mr. Kerry did not say how the administration had obtained the evidence. But he said the case against Mr. Assad was “going to build,” and insisted there was no cost to delaying.
“We do not lose anything; we actually gain,” Mr. Kerry said. “And what we gain is the legitimacy of the full-throated response of the Congress of the United States and the president acting together.” He added that Congress, which has been demanding that the president consult with lawmakers, “can’t have it both ways.”
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