December 11, 2013
US seeks accountability for Syria gas attack, closer to military response
US Secretary of State John Kerry has laid the groundwork for possible military action against the Syrian government over a suspected chemical weapons attack, implicating President Bashar al-Assad's forces in a "moral obscenity."
In the most forceful US reaction yet to last week's suspected gas attack outside Damascus, Kerry said President Barack Obama "believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people."
Kerry spoke after U.N. chemical weapons experts interviewed and took blood samples on Monday from victims of the attack in a rebel-held suburb of Syria's capital, after the inspectors themselves survived sniper fire that hit their convoy.
"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world," Kerry told reporters. "Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity."
Kerry's tough language marked an increased effort by the administration not only to point the finger at Assad's government but to prepare the war-weary American public for a potential military response.
He accused the Syrian rulers of acting like they had something to hide by blocking the U.N. inspectors' visit to the scene for days and shelling the area.
"Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up," Kerry said.
Information gathered so far, including videos and accounts from the ground, indicate that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was "undeniable," Kerry said, adding that it was the Syrian government that maintained custody of the weapons and had the rockets capable of delivering them.