Zee Media Bureau
Washington: In a blunt remark, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a sharp warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad telling him to avoid retaliation in case of a US strike.
Addressing lawmakers in a key Congressional hearing, Kerry made it clear that the United States had “ample ways” to respond to Assad’s retaliation “without going to war”.
"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 said.
Meanwhile, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured the lawmakers that the US was completely ready to deter any retaliatory act from Syria.
When asked during the Congressional hearing, what would be US reaction to Assad’s retaliation, Dempsey said, "We`re postured for the possibility of retaliation, and I can assure you that our regional partners are, as well”.
Dempsry also clarified that US plan was not intended to eliminate chemical weapons entirely as it was not possible to do so.
"This isn`t about eliminating chemical weapons. That`s not possible given the number and the distribution of them. It`s about convincing the Assad regime that it`s unacceptable for them to use them, and that`s the limit of this military operation," Dempsey told lawmakers.
Speaking on possible ways that Assad regime could react, Dempsey said Syria could go for long-range rockets to attack US bases in Syria’s vicinity or it could persuade its proxies as Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack US targets or embassies.
"There`s both conventional risks that would be if he chose to use some of his long-range rockets to attack his neighbors or some of our facilities. There`s also asymmetric, he could encourage some of the surrogates and proxies, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, to attack an embassy," he said.
"There`s actions he could probably seek to achieve in cyber. And we are alert to all of the possibilities and are mitigating strategies in the way we`ve positioned ourselves in the region," Dempsey added.
These remarks during Congressional hearing came as John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey faced volley of questions from US lawmakers on various aspects of the proposed US military strike to punish Assad regime for having used chemicals against its own citizens.
Even as a resolution on Syria strike was approved by a 10-7 vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, the task for Obama seems far from over as he would try to win international support on Syria plan when heads to Russia to attend G20 summit and the resolution awaits a full Senate vote next week.