Kerry Exploring Russian Proposal That Assad Surrender Chemical Weapons

Secretary of State Not Optimistic About Outcome

Not a Serious Offer: Secretary of State John Kerry says America cannot count on Syrian President Bachar al-Assad agreeing tp a handover of chemical weapons to avoid a U.S. strike on the country.
Getty Images
Not a Serious Offer: Secretary of State John Kerry says America cannot count on Syrian President Bachar al-Assad agreeing tp a handover of chemical weapons to avoid a U.S. strike on the country.

By Reuters

Published September 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

LONDON - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S. military strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, but immediately made clear he was not making a serious offer.

President Barack Obama is seeking support from Congress for punitive military action against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack in a civil war that the United Nations says has killed at least 100,000 people.

When asked by a reporter in London whether there was anything Assad’s government could do or offer to stop a military strike, Kerry answered:

“Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it), but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”

The State Department later said Kerry had been making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility of Assad turning over chemical weapons, which Assad denies his forces used in the Aug. 21 poison gas attack.

In an interview with U.S. television network CBS, Assad said the United States would be going against its own interests if it got involved in Syria, warning of repercussions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s only big-power supporter, says opponents of Assad staged the attack to provoke U.S.-led military intervention, an allegation Kerry dismissed out of hand on Monday.

Putin’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, met Assad’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, in Moscow on Monday and the two urged Washington to concentrate on convening a Syrian peace conference rather than on military action.

Moualem suggested the chemical attack was a pretext to trigger military intervention and asked whether Obama was backing “terrorists” - an allusion to radical Islamists, who are prominent in the ranks of rebels fighting to topple Assad.

WAR IN SYRIA

Kerry said he was confident of the evidence that the United States and its allies had presented to support their case that Assad’s forces used poison gas, though he said he understood scepticism lingering from the 2003 Iraq war - in which cited intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was later proven wrong.

He avoided directly answering a question on whether the United States had evidence directly linking Assad to the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, but said such weapons were controlled by only three people in Syria: Assad, his brother Maher, and an unnamed general.

Kerry, a former lawyer, said he had successfully prosecuted people with less evidence and warned that doing nothing was worse than doing something, saying inaction would come back to haunt the United States and its allies.

“If you want to send Iran and Hezbollah and Assad a congratulatory message: ‘You guys can do what you want,’ you’d say: ‘Don’t do anything.’

“We believe that is dangerous and we will face this down the road in some more significant way if we’re not prepared to take … a stand now,” Kerry said.

When asked about the CBS interview with Assad, British Foreign Secretary William Hague cautioned against giving too much weight to the Syrian president’s words.

“We mustn’t fall into the trap of attaching too much credibility to the words of a leader, President Assad, who has presided over so many war crimes and crimes against humanity (and) shown such a murderous disregard for the welfare of his own people,” Hague said. “So let’s not fall into the trap of believing every word that … comes out of such a man.”

Kerry stressed that ties between Britain and the United States were as strong as ever despite the British parliament voting not to endorse military action against Syria, prompting a government decision not to take part.

“The relationship between the United States and the UK has often been described as special, essential and it has been described thus because it is,” Kerry said. “The bond … is bigger than one (parliamentary) vote.”

While in London, Kerry said he had held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he described as “productive”, but did not give further details.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.