Live Blog: SOS Kerry’s Speech on Action In Syria

US-SYRIA-POLITICS-KERRY“That was a War Speech” says WAPO about a previous Kerry Presser.

It’s difficult to find a single sentence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful and at points emotional press conference on Syria that did not sound like a direct case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria. It was, from the first paragraph to the 15th,a war speech.

That doesn’t mean that full-on war is coming; the Obama administration appears poised for a limited campaign of offshore strikes, probably cruise missiles and possible aircraft strikes. President Obama has long signaled that he has no interest in a full, open-ended or ground-based intervention, and there’s no reason to believe his calculus has changed. But Kerry’s language and tone were unmistakable. He was making the case for, and signaling that the United States planned to pursue, military action against another country. As my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan wrote, “Kerry left little doubt that the decision for the United States is not whether to take military action, but when.”

Kerry made the moral case for attacking Syria. He described what’s happening in Syria as “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons,” which he called “a moral obscenity” and “inexcusable.”

Kerry made the international norms case for striking Syria. “All peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again,” he said. The argument here is that punishing Assad’s use of chemical weapons matters “beyond the conflict in Syria itself,” because the world wants to deter future military actors from using chemical weapons.

Kerry hinted at international coalition-building, saying that he’d spoken “with foreign ministers from around the world.” He later said that “information [about the attack] is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners.”

The United States is not going to win approval from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has consistently opposed even milquetoast resolutions condemning Assad. But Kerry still made a point of gesturing toward the institution it’s about to bypass, saying, “At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night.” He accused Assad of blocking U.N. inspectors and “systemically destroying evidence.”

Kerry was mindful that the hyped up case for war against Iraq and the results of previous US engagement in countries like Egypt, Libya an Afghanistan have not been good.  Yet, Kerry made it clear that the US was ready to take some kind of action today.

France appears ready to join the US.

BREAKING NEWS: Secretary of State John F. Kerry says the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made preparations three days before last week’s chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus and fired the rockets from regime-controlled areas. This story will be updated shortly.

LONDON – French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is prepared to act in Syria despite Britain’s surprise rejection of military action, potentially making a nation that turned its back on Washington during the war in Iraq the primary U.S. ally in a possible strike against Syrian forces.

The Guardian characterizes the speech as “polarizing for world leaders.”

As the US moves towards military intervention in the Syrian conflict, world leaders have issued a string of belicose statements, with Iran and Russiastanding alongside the Assad regime against a western alliance led by the US, UK, France and Australia.

In their toughest terms to date, David Cameron and US secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke of the undeniable and “asbolutely abhorrent” and use of chemical weapons in Syria. In response, the Assad regime and Iran warned that foreign military intervention in Syria would result in a conflict that would engulf the region.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, intimated that Tehran would respond, should the west strike.

“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, also vowed that the regime would defend itself using all means available in the event of a US-led assault.

“I challenge those who accuse our forces of using these weapons to come forward with the evidence,” he told reporters at a press conference in Damascus. “We have the means to defend ourselves, and we will surprise everyone.”

Shia Iran is Syria’s closest ally and has accused an alliance of militant Sunni Islamists, Israel and western powers of trying to use the conflict to take over the region.

The rhetoric from the Shia camp came a day after Kerry gave the strongest indication to date that the US intends to take military action against the Assad regime. On Monday, Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces had committed a moral obscenity against his own people.

“Make no mistake,” Kerry said. “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapon against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.”

Full transcript here at WAPO.

President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too.

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, these things we do know.

We also know that we have a president that does what he says that he will do. And he has said, very clearly, that whatever decision he makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.

The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and (sic) tailored response to ensure that, a despots brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately we are committed — we remain committed, we believe it’s — the primary objective is (sic) to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution.

It has to be political.

It has to happen at the negotiating table.

And we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That is what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is, at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country, and for the promise of a planet, where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.

What do you think?

32 Comments on “Live Blog: SOS Kerry’s Speech on Action In Syria”

  1. RalphB says:

    Damn it.

    tbotp: Nancy Pelosi the hawk tells President Obama to act on Syria

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed top administration officials Thursday night to take military action to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad in response to reports that he used chemical weapons in his nation’s ongoing civil war.

    “It is clear that the American people are weary of war. However, Assad gassing his own people is an issue of our national security, regional stability and global security,” Pelosi said in a statement after the 90-minute conference call with members of the National Security Council and 26 high-ranking lawmakers….

  2. dakinikat says:

    Project Syndicate
    “A no-fly zone in Syria would not only clear the skies of warplanes and missiles; it would also show President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters that he truly is vulnerable.” – Charles Tannock. Read more here:

    • RalphB says:

      It would also be a lot more dangerous, expensive, and high maintenance than lobbing some Tomahawks into Syria. No-fly zones require a long term commitment.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Department of State ‏@StateDept 3m
    U.S. assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack on August 21.

  4. bostonboomer says:
  5. RalphB says:

    People seem more upset that Obama is considering bombing Assad than that Assad killed his own people with chemical weapons. wtf?

  6. RalphB says:

  7. Propertius says:

    I think that, under the Nuremberg Principles (which we wrote), “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression” is classified as a “Crime against the Peace”.

    Attacking a sovereign country is a crime under both US and international law, and this makes Obama every bit the war criminal that his predecessor was. We hanged people for this after WW II.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Obama still can’t make up his mind, but he’s “considering a ‘limited, narrow act’ against Syria.

  9. RalphB says:

    Assad’s use of nerve gas is certainly a war crime. I have one question for which I would like an answer before considering acts of war against Assad in Syria. Why use chemical weapons? If the regime is not about to fall, why commit the war crimes and invite the US and Allies to bomb you?

    If Assad is about to topple, maybe 100 Tomahawks or so will push him over.

  10. ecocatwoman says:

    Why aren’t the differing factions of Muslim countries in the Middle East leading the way on the Syrian civil war? This ongoing conflict has already affected them, especially with the massive influx of refugees fleeing Syria. Yes, the use of chemical weapons is abhorrent, but so is war. There is no guarantee that women, children & innocent bystanders (to quote Kerry) won’t be injured and/or killed in US air strikes. Isn’t that abhorrent as well? Frankly I can’t come down on either side – I just wish the fighting, the GD constant fighting, would stop!!!! I realize that isn’t going to happen but the solutions being put forth suck, imho.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    This guy just lost the NYC mayoral race: NYC mayoral hopeful: Don’t stop trains for kittens

    A former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and New York City mayoral hopeful says he wouldn’t have stopped the subway because two lost kittens were scrambling along the tracks.

    A spokesman for Joe Lhota (LOH’-tuh) tells the New York Post ( ) Friday the candidate doesn’t think shutting down subway service for lost cats is appropriate. But he said Lhota believes it wouldn’t be the mayor’s decision in any case.

    On Thursday, the MTA cut power on two Brooklyn subway lines for more than an hour as the two pets scurried around the tracks. The furry felines were finally rescued about seven hours later.

    Officials say kittens Arthur and August are being treated in a shelter.

    Other mayoral hopefuls tell the paper they would’ve stopped the trains.

    There’s even a photo of the cute, cuddly kittens.