How should the US react to a 'moral obscenity' in Syria?

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks on Syria at the State Department in Washington, DC, 26 August 2013 Kerry said the US would take "an informed decision" on how to respond to the use of chemical weapons

US Secretary of State John Kerry has denounced the Syrian government for attacking its own people with chemical weapons in a highly-charged, emotional, statement.

He appeared to be preparing the ground for military action, while giving away no details of what will be done.

Mr Kerry said what happened was a moral obscenity that should shock the world and offend "our basic sense of humanity".

What else do we learn from his words?

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Anyone with queasy memories of "dossiers" before the Iraq war will realise that this will come under a lot of scrutiny”

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The Obama administration does not need any further evidence that this was a chemical attack and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame.

Mr Kerry said the facts were "screaming" out from the pictures, common sense led to one conclusion, and that giving access to the inspectors came "too late to be credible".

But he said that evidence had been collected and would be presented.

Anyone with queasy memories of "dossiers" before the Iraq War will realise that this will come under a lot of scrutiny.

The latest survey indicates 45% of Americans would back an attack on Syria if it had used chemical weapons, but there is still a job to be done persuading the public at home. Mr Kerry said Congress was being consulted.

China and Russia have both warned against an attack, which may mean the US intends to bypass the UN Security Council.

Certainly Mr Kerry did not mention the UN but it would be counter to Mr Obama's instincts not to build wide international support for any action.

All that leaves the question of what will happen, and when.

Mr Kerry left no doubt that action would be taken - he said those who carried out heinous crimes had to be held accountable. He said the president would take "an informed decision" - the same curious formulation used in a Sunday's statement from a White House official.

The administration has deliberately left itself almost no room for manoeuvre - its credibility would now be zero if it failed to take some form of military action.

But there is no sense of a time scale, the scope of any attack, or indeed the limits of its aims.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    338. Jackturk
    If the US were really the bully, then all others would align with Russia/China against us. Eastern Europeans know Russia and stay with us. The Asians know China & Russia and stay with us. Your agitprop has improved but is still very obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    The propagandists on both sides are having a field day here. In reality ALL foreigners and ALL military supplies should be removed/embargoed. That includes Russian/Iranian/Chinese as well as US/EU. The only just way is to starve both sides into an internal settlement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    105 Jim Squeechy God’s Law = Leviticus = Shariah, NO thanks.
    112 We learned sneaky and corporate imperialism from Brits & French. Unfortunately we seem to be studying brutality now from Russians.

    134 Hillwalker Hubris & miscalculation are not only western, Saddam made some, Mao made many.

    168 Dr Bob Matthews All militaries have plans prepared, even for alien invasion, so what? No aliens!

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    " It would clearly be unconstitutional for the US to abrogate its power or rights of any of its citizens to an outside organization such as the ICC"

    Yet it expects others to do exactly that. In addition it illegally renders citizens to other countries for the purposes of interrogation and torture. When a country deliberately closes its eyes to its own criminal behaviour it's doomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    946 It would clearly be unconstitutional for the US to abrogate its power or rights of any of its citizens to an outside organization such as the ICC.The US government does not have the power to aid and abet the possible abrogation of the constitutional right of Americans by an international organization.I think a good legal case could be made for invalidating many other treaties the US signed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    341. powermeerkat
    "Who would like you US to answer to?" (sic)


    Except they refused to recognise it for fear of the consequences, apart that is from others they wish to see answer to it. What hypocrites!

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    344 President Obama made a threat. Syria has called his bluff. A street tough kid who went to Harvard Law School and joined the Chicago political machine knows that in a tough neighborhood you must never allow your bluff to be called and back down. That loses credibility forever. Obama has to make this one hurt really bad. He can. I think he will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    "The administration has deliberately left itself almost no room for manoeuvre - its credibility would now be zero if it failed to take some form of military action” Mark Mardell, BBC North American Editor

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    I don't think we can get involved. Sorry but the days of US and UK being the Worlds police are over. I am sorry but the Uk is only just coming out of recession and I think it's time we put ourselves first. We can't keep walking into every country everytime there's something we don't like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    338If Britain were answerable to the US incidents like Megrahi, the Dodgy Dossier, overthrow of Mossadegh would have resulted in the US breaking off all relations with the UK. On general principle I'm not sure far cooler more remote relations with all of America's false friends would be a bad idea.We're pivoting towards Asia now anyway and we're becoming less "Euro-ethnic."It's going to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    "When an uncivilised country like the USA, with it's overblown military power, decides it is only answerable to itself"

    Who would like you US to answer to?

    China? Cuba, Iran, Russia, Yemen? Venezuela? Vietnam?

    Or perhaps to unelected EUSSR regime in Brussels?

    I for one am glad that 'civilised' people like you cannot do anything to these United States. Being impotent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    339. robert thomas

    If you believe for one minute that the US is trying to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria you have been duped.

    The US has used chemical weapons itself in Vietnam and Iraq without any thought for the local populations. The US is in this for their own purposes as sieuarlu was honest enough to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    As for those who believe the US is an uncivilized bully for trying to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria, there seems to be an incredible lack of empathy for those who have suffered and died of gas exposure in Syria. Perhaps those against intervention should don gas masks and go assist the Syrians when Assad uses gas again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    337. sieuarlu

    And for all those reading this blog, sieuarlu's answer below is the very reason the world is in such chaos. When an uncivilised country like the USA, with it's overblown military power, decides it is only answerable to itself, the rest of the world needs to get real and see what's happening.

    But like all bullies, the US will eventually meet its downfall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    336"How strong is US evidence on Syria?"

    It only has to be strong enough to convince itself, no one else. Once it has concluded what happened the next step is to decide what to do about it. And then to just do it.Like all other nations the US acts in its own self interests. The difference is, when it does act, things really happen. Maybe things others don't like. Too bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    "How strong is US evidence on Syria?"

    Yes, let's see it. If it is anything like the 'evidence' against Iraq it will be non existent.

    The hypocritical USA and UK are itching to find any excuse to go in, just as they did in Iraq. This is just a continuation of the neocon's ambition to de-stabilise the Middle East on behalf of Israel their master.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    It's the BBC - Tory and Friends news network. Let's see which of their mega rich masters they are covering for. FIrst up, the EIB has billions invested in infrastructure assets right there around Syria. I wonder who benefits if Syrian infrastructure is bombed. Don't forget about Leviathan gas fields and the pipelines feeding natural gas through Syrian. Noble Gas is another convenient benefactor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    333 Other likely targets are the political infrastructure that supports the military. This could include the ministries of defense, intelligence, ministry of communications, party headquarters, homes of party officials and government officials, homes of generals and other important leaders, and all ancillary functions and functionaries.It's just a matter of how much Obama wants to dismember now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    Re #330.sieuarlu

    Destruction of Russia-supplied anri-aircraft batteries, radars, and Syrian military airfields woud be obviously an initial step of an air campaign.

    Followed by a destruction of all Syrian military and intelligence assets.

    That's what happend in Iraq. and that's what may well happpend with Islamist Iran/Hezbollah-propped Assad's Syria. And where will then Assad hide?

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    331"I'm glad it was "all on the news" but I haven't had time to catch up yet"

    Many people who post here shoot from the lip without knowing what they are talking about. If they followed the news, read history, understood the world better....they'd all agree with me on everything. But that's why I have to educate them. Europeans think they're smart.Their history and circumstances prove otherwise.


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