United States Secretary of State John Kerry has given President Bashar al-Assad one week to relinquish his entire stockpile of chemical weapons to the international community or else face a military attack. Kerry also said that he believes Assad will not accept the offer, calling Assad “a man without credibility.”
Kerry spoke at a London press conference on Monday along with UK foreign secretary William Hague. The US state department said that Kerry was “making a rhetorical argument.” The department stated that his point was that a “brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago,” according to The Guardian.
In response, Assad has warned the US to prepare for “repercussions” if military strikes are launched against Syria. In an interview on Monday, Assad stated, “You should expect everything. Not necessarily through the government. The government is not the only player in this region.”
In addition to direct repercussions, Assad warned that military action could result in “instability and the spread of terrorism.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also warned that military strikes on Syria would result in an “outburst of terrorism,” according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
Kerry said that he has no doubt the chemical weapons attacks that occurred last month, killing nearly 1,500 civilians, including 426 children, were perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to Kerry, the entire US intelligence community is united in the belief that Assad is responsible.
The US Secretary of State placed the blame for the chemical weapons attacks solely at the feet of three people, whom he says are the only ones with access to Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile: Assad, one of his brothers, and a senior general. Kerry said that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile “was controlled in a very tight manner by the Assad regime… Bashar al-Assad and his brother Maher al-Assad, and a general are the three people that have the control over the movement and use of chemical weapons.”
Meanwhile, a German newspaper has reported that Assad did not personally order last month’s chemical weapons attacks. Citing unidentified, high-level national security sources – phone calls intercepted by a German surveillance ship operated by the German intelligence service, BND – the report states that Assad was not involved in last month’s attack or in “other instances when government forces have allegedly used chemical weapons,” The Guardian reports.
Immediately following the deadly attacks, Syrian ally, Russia, called the reports of chemical weapons use “alarmist,” and said that the accusations against Assad were a “rebel provocation to discredit him.” While most of the world now seems in agreement that chemical weapons were used against Syrian opposition forces, many citizens of both the US and other nations are opposed to military intervention.
Ten days ago, the British House of Commons voted against the use of military force in Syria. Despite the loss of support from its ally, as well as US public opposition to military intervention, the United States is pressing forward with the possibility of a strike. Last week, the US House of Representatives responded unfavorably to the prospect of military intervention in Syria.
President Obama’s remaining ally, President François Hollande of France, is facing increasing pressure to seek a UN mandate for any military action in Syria. Recent opinion polls show that up to 64 percent of French citizens oppose air strikes as a solution.
At the press conference on Monday, Kerry stated that both he and President Obama believe the Syrian conflict requires a political solution: “Let me be clear,” he stated. “The United States of America, President Obama, myself, others are in full agreement that the end of the conflict in Syria requires a political solution.”
But, he continued, “There is no military solution. We have no illusions about that.” A political solution is impossible while “one party believes that he can rub out countless numbers of his own citizens with impunity using chemicals that have been banned for 100 years.”