Secretary of State John Kerry said that samples collected from victims of the after the reported Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria have tested positive for the nerve agent Sarin.
“In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States that have now been tested from first responders in east Damascus and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of Sarin,” Kerry, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said. Sarin is an odorless, colorless nerve agent interferes with nerve signals to the muscles.
“Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein have used these weapons in time of war,” Kerry said. “This is of great consequence to Israel, to Jordan, to Turkey, to the region, and to all of us who care about enforcing the international norm with respect to chemical weapons.”
Kerry repeated the assertions on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’s “Face the Nation” as he made the administration’s case on Syria on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.
Kerry’s remarks come a day after President Obama said that he would seek Congressional approval to strike against Syria. A preliminary U.S. government assessment found that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack earlier this month, including at least 426 children and put the blame on the Syrian government for the attacks.
The White House drafted sent draft legislation to Congress to decide whether to authorize a limited military strike against the Syrian government.
Kerry said Sunday that he believes Congress will authorize force in Syria, though he would not respond to the question of how the administration would respond if Congress says no.
“I don’t believe that my former colleagues in the United States Senate and the House will turn their backs on all of our interests, on the credibility of our country, on the norm with respect to the enforcement of the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, which has been in place since 1925,” Kerry said.
But Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, following Kerry on “Meet the Press,” said he opposes intervention in Syria.
“I would ask John Kerry do you think that it’s less likely or more likely that chemical weapons will be used again if we bomb Assad? I’ll ask him if it’s more likely or less likely that we’ll have more refugees in Jordan or that Israel might suffer attack,” Paul said.
“I think all of the bad things you can imagine are all more likely if we get involved in the Syrian civil war,” he said.
Paul also referenced a quote from Kerry 1971’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Vietnam War, saying “How can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?” (The original Kerry quote is “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”)
United Nations investigators will turn their samples over to laboratories for analysis Monday, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirsky said, adding that he did not know whether the U.S. had shared the evidence Kerry mentioned. Nesirsky refused to specify a timeline for results, but said that the analysis was “being done as fast as possible within the scientific constraints.” Inspectors said earlier that results could take weeks.
U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon “took note” of Obama’s declaration that he would proceed without U.N. approval, Nesirsky said, but welcomed his decision to defer to Congress as “one aspect of an effort to achieve a broad-based international consensus.” Moon briefed the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on Friday and will brief the full council next week, most likely on Tuesday. Discussion of Syria is expected to dominate the G20 group of industrial and developing countries meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday.
The two Syrian officials supervising the U.N. team allowed inspectors full access to all the sites they identified as priorities, Nesirsky said. Kerry had said in a speech Friday that their access was “restricted and controlled.”