Friday, Aug. 30, at a news conference in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a ringing statement accusing Bashar Assad of responsibility for the lethal poison gas attack on Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. His words signaled the start of the countdown for the US military strike on Syria, which debkafile’s military sources estimate could be launched from Friday night until US Labor Day on Sept. 2.
Kerry laid out the evidence put before congressional leaders that the Syrian government had that day fired chemical weapons at 11 separate sites in and around Damascus, launching them from regime-held areas against rebel-controlled neighborhoods. At least 1,429 Syrians died in the attack, 426 children among them. US intelligence had records of orders being given to chemical weapons teams to launch the attack three days earlier and shown making preparations wearing gas masks.
The Secretary went on to say, “With our own eyes we saw victims writhing in agony from the symptoms of poison gas. We know they were ordinary Syrian citizens who suffered these horrors. We know that the doctors and nurses didn’t need to dress bloody wounds. Not a drop of blood was seen. We saw children dead from Assad’s gas surrounded by parents and grand parents who were victims. The medical staff treating the wounded were themselves overcome by the poison fumes.
Kerry said most of the evidence obtained by US intelligence had been released to the public.
The US secretary said that if America looks the other way and does nothing and Syria gets away with this crime against humanity, others will believe they can do what they will, including Iran with regard to its nuclear weapons and North Korea.
At stake is America’s position in the world and in its own eyes, as well as the security of its friends, Israel, Jordan and Turkey, all of which are physically close to Syria.
President Obama has pledged that what is done in Syria will be in the American interest and not resemble the wars in Afghanistan and Libya. "There will be no US boots on the ground; nor will the operation be open-ended. It will be limited to holding those responsible for using chemical weapons accountable, the US Secretary stressed.
With regard to the UN chemical team’s inspection of the affected sites, Kerry noted that its remit was not to affirm who used chemical weapons only whether they were used. “The UN can’t tell us anything we don’t know and have shared with the American public.”
Earlier Friday, President Obama convened in national security team while White House officials spread the word that the US is prepared to act against Syria alone after the British Parliament barred UK participation in the attack.