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Kerry builds momentum for attack on Syria

Atul Aneja
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War fatigue cannot be excuse for avoiding responsibility, says Secretary of State; U.N. chemical experts leave Syria

Members of the local Syrian community protest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Friday.— Photo: AP
Members of the local Syrian community protest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Friday.— Photo: AP

As the case for unilateral western military strikes without approval from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) struggles to stand up to scrutiny, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on Friday trying to convince sceptics that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has indeed used chemical weapons.

“We know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war — believe me, I am, too,” said Mr. Kerry, who has emerged as the most vocal advocate for a war. “But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency.”

On the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama had affirmed that he was considering a “limited, narrow” attack to deter Mr. Assad’s government from using chemical weapons in the future. “We’re not considering any open-ended commitment,” said Mr. Obama. “We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach.”

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry swiftly rebutted these remarks. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich asserted that given the lack of evidence, any unilateral military action bypassing the U.N. Security Council — “no matter how limited it is” — would be a direct violation of international law and would undermine the prospects for a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria. He stressed that an attack “will lead to a new round of confrontation and new casualties”.

The Syrians have also slammed Mr. Kerry’s assertion that the government had used chemical weapons that allegedly killed hundreds of people during an attack on the outskirts of Damascus. A source in the Syrian Foreign Ministry said Damascus was surprised at Washington’s efforts to “deceive its public opinion in such a naïve manner”. The Ministry dismissed Mr. Kerry’s remarks as “a desperate attempt to talk the world into accepting the upcoming U.S. aggression”.

As the threat of war remained palpable, a parliamentary delegation from Iran — Syria’s key ally — arrived in Damascus. The purpose of the team led by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Parliament’s national security committee, was to convey a message that “the Iranian nation and government are against any foreign military intervention in Syria and will make every effort to prevent foreign countries from finding the opportunity to interfere in Syria”, said the delegation’s spokesman Naqavi Hosseini.

The visit of the Iranian law makers coincided with the exit of U.N. chemical experts from Syria, who were in the country since August 18, opening the doors of speculation that military strikes on Syria could now be imminent.

However, the results of the findings of the inspectors could take as long as two weeks to finalise. “The samples that have been collected will be taken to be analysed in designated laboratories, and the intention of course is to expedite the analysis of that sampling that’s been taken,” said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.


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