Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday denounced Syrian president Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons, which he called “inexcusable” and “undeniable.” Kerry blasted not only what he termed the “cowardly crime,” but also the regime’s attempt to cover it up.
Though the facts surrounding the attack have been the subject of heated debate, Kerry’s statement leaves no doubt the Obama administration has concluded that Assad is guilty of using chemical weapons in an August 21 attack that occurred in the suburbs of Damascus and left at least 100 people dead. The secretary of state said that those who doubt the regime has carried out a chemical-weapons attack should “check their conscience and their own moral compass.”
The Syrian regime has blamed rebel forces for the use of the weapons. Though it vowed to allow United Nations inspectors in to inspect the site, U.N. vehicles were deliberately shot at multiple times on Monday as they headed towards the location.
Calling the attack a “moral obscenity,” Kerry emphasized that the use of chemical weapons in Syria may resonate far beyond the country’s civil war, and that the use of such weapons may become far more common if the international community does not respond forcefully to this attack. “This international norm cannot be violated without consequences,” Kerry said said, telling reporters that America’s response would be “grounded in facts, informed by conscience, and grounded by common sense.”
The secretary of state, however, declined to specify what action, if any, the United States will take and said that the fact-finding process is still underway. President Obama suggested just over year ago that Assad’s use of chemical weapons constituted a “red line” that would push him toward intervention.