Zee Media Bureau
Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday reiterated that if no action against Syria is taken then Syrian President Basher al-Assad will misconstrue the silence and use chemical weapons with “impunity”, as per news reports.
The Obama Administration today also cautioned the Assad regime not to retaliate against its military strike, warning that it would regret if it tried to escalate it.
"Let me say again unequivocally, bluntly: If Assad is arrogant enough and foolish enough to retaliate to the consequences of his own criminal activity, the United States and our allies have ample ways to make him regret that decision without going to war," Kerry told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
"Even Assad supporters, Russia and Iran, say publicly that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. And guess what? Even Iran and Syria itself acknowledge that these weapons were used. They just pretend that the other guys, who don`t even have the capacity to do it, somehow did it," he said, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Kerry asserted that this is not the time for armchair isolationism.
"This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter. This is not the time to give permission to a dictator, who has already used these weapons, the unfettered ability to continue to use them because we stepped back. Neither our country nor our conscience can afford the cost of silence or inaction," he said.
Kerry also repeated his earlier claim that the strikes will be ‘limited’ in nature and there will be no ‘boots on ground’.
He said this while addressing the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to seek their support for military action in Syria after the US government said that Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack that killed over 1,429 people including 400 children on August 21.
The Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, said if Assad is prepared to use chemical weapons against his own people, the US has to be concerned that terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which has forces fighting in Syria supporting the Assad regime could acquire them and use them.
"This risk of chemical weapons proliferation poses a direct threat to our friends and partners and to US personnel in the region. We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist groups determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use these chemical weapons," he said.
"The Syrian`s regime`s action threatens to erode the nearly century-old international norm against the use of chemical weapons, a norm that has helped protect United States forces and our homeland," Hagel added.
The objective of these military strike, he said, is to hold the Assad regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kind of attacks, and deter the further use of chemical weapons.
"The Department of Defense has developed military options to achieve these objectives, and we have positioned US assets throughout the region to successfully execute the mission. We believe we can achieve them with a military action that would be limited in duration and scope," he said.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama today said that the international community’s credibility will be questioned if no action is taken after the alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria.
“My credibility is not on the line. The international community`s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress` credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” Obama said during a visit to Stockholm, Sweden.
"Failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and that possibility that other countries would use these weapons, as well," he said.
Responding to a question, he said the red line against the use of chemical weapons was not set by him.
"I didn`t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 per cent of the world`s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war," he said.
US Congressional aides have said the Syria war resolution drafted by members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee permits up to 60 days of military action against the Assad regime and does not permit any boots on the ground.
However, the text of the draft resolution was not officially released.
The resolution is under consideration after last week Obama stepped back from a strike on Syria to first seek approval from Congress, which returns from recess next week.
(With PTI Inputs)