Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the use of chemical weapons in attacks last week in Syria is "undeniable" and that President Barack Obama is weighing possible responses. Kerry stressed that use of the weapons by the Syrian regime had been verified, despite the government's refusal to cooperate with the United Nations, and suggested that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad was attempting a cover up:
I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscience and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground, like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission — these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria.
Assad had originally denied inspectors access to the site of the attacks last week, but the government agreed Monday to let them in. Kerry said this permission came "too late to be credible."
Obama had previously said that use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line" for intervention, but has yet to act despite previous evidence that such weapons had been used. In an interview with a Russian newspaper, Assad said that were the United States to intervene militarily in Syria, the country would see "failure just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day."
U.S. News' Pat Garofalo said the administration should remain cautious about entangling itself in Syria, and intervention should stop at condemning the violence:
Getting involved in the Syrian conflict means getting into the middle of a bloody, sectarian civil war that will likely continue long after Assad is gone, not simply protecting civilians who are under assault. Time and time again, the U.S. has tried to intervene in such conflicts; it rarely ends well. Just look at what happened in Iraq: the bloodiest phase of the war was after the dictator targeted by the U.S. was already out of the picture, when sectarian bloodletting ran rampant.
But the Foreign Policy Initiative's Evan Moore writes that the U.S. should do much more to intervene militarily:
The United States should not only provide the military assistance that it has promised to the moderate elements of Syria's armed opposition, but also give the anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry that the mainstream Free Syrian Army's leadership has pleaded for and needs to defend itself against Assad and extremist forces. It should also begin preparations for an air-sea campaign to degrade Assad's forces and defenses, create a humanitarian safe-zone along the Turkish or Jordanian borders for refugees to flee to and allow moderate members of the armed opposition to organize and train. ... It's high time for President Obama to act decisively, and stop Assad once and for all.
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