Secretary of State John Kerry this afternoon labeled Syria’s use of chemical weapons “undeniable,” declaring that U.S. officials will soon release “additional information” about what is widely believed to be a nerve gas attack conducted by the Bashar al-Assad regime against rebel-held suburbs of Damascus last week.
“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world,” Kerry said, calling last week’s chemical weapons attack against civilians a “moral obscenity.” “By any standard it is inexcusable and despite excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable,” Kerry said in an apparent message to the Russians, who have contended that the West has not produced sufficient evidence that the Assad regime used chemical weapons.
Kerry also described the regime’s decision to allow a U.N. inspection team to visit the site of the attack – which came after the regime had continued to heavily shell the area – as “too late to be credible.” Reuters evaluated the significance of the speech as a signal that “the United States was edging closer to a possible military response.”
Kerry’s statement came on a day in which both Syria and Iran explicitly threatened to attack Israel if the West attempts to intervene in the Syrian conflict. Halef al-Muftah, a member of the Syrian Ba’ath national council, and until recently the Syrian propaganda minister’s aide, said Monday that Israel would “come under fire” if Syria was attacked by the United States.
In an interview for the American radio station Sawa in Arabic, President Bashar Assad’s fellow party member said: “We have strategic weapons and we can retal ate. Essentially, the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel.”
The threats from Damascus explicitly echoed ones made by Iran. Hossein Sheikholeslam, the director of the Iranian parliament’s international affairs committee, said on Monday that Israel would be “the first victim of an attack on Syria,” and that Damascus would attack Israel “with severity.”