WASHINGTON – Secretary of State John Kerry told a House committee Tuesday the United States must react to the Syrian government’s chemical attack on its people to show the U.S. won’t stand for a nation willing to go against the Chemical Weapons Convention.
At a House Armed Services Committee meeting,Kerry said a political resolution will not be achieved if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “believes he can continue to gas his way out of a solution.”
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey,the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff,both testified at the hearing,and said any force the U.S. plans to use would be minimal,but strategic.
Rep. Adam Smith,D-Wash.,wanted to know if the U.S. could hold Assad back without taking him out of power.
Kerry said President Barack Obama is not asking to take over the Syrian civil war but wants to enforce a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.
Dempsey said an airstrike would be the method of attack used against the Syrian government. He assured House members this would not be another war like those in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“No American boots would touch the ground,” Dempsey said.
Obama is scheduled to address the nation Tuesday night about U.S. plans to stop Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Kerry said an airstrike is not intended to get Assad out of power,but rather to show Assad,Iran,North Korea and Hezbollah that the U.S. stands by its treaties and won’t allow the use of chemical weapons.
Evidence strongly suggests the Syrian government used chemical weapons Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 people,including 400 children.
Committee members doubted that a military attack on Syria would stop Assad from using chemical weapons in the future.
Hagel said if the committee didn’t approve U.S. action now the country will face greater problems in the future.
House members wanted to know whether all diplomatic avenues were explored before striking Syria. Russia,one of Syria’s closest allies,said Monday it was open to the idea of taking control of Syria’s chemical weapons and eventually destroying them.
Kerry said he would consider a proposal in which Syria would place its chemical weapons under international control,but “we’re not waiting for long.”
At a London news conference Monday,Kerry said the crisis could wind down if Assad agreed to go give up his chemical weapons.
Syrian Prime Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday in Moscow his country accepted a Russian proposal to place chemical weapons under international control.
Kerry left the hearing early to discuss that proposal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Reach reporter Zahra Farah at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.