September 1st, 2013
09:03 AM ET
9 years ago

Kerry: 'Signatures of sarin' found in Syria

Updated 3:20 p.m. ET, 9/1

(CNN) - Blood and hair samples from eastern Damascus, Syria, have "tested positive for signatures of sarin" gas, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday, arguing that with "each day that goes by, this case is even stronger."

Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. obtained the samples independently from "first responders" and through an "appropriate chain of custody"," not the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors.

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"We know that the regime ordered this attack, we know they prepared for it," Kerry said. "We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards. We've seen the horrific scenes all over the social media, and we have evidence of it in other ways, and we know that the regime tried to cover up afterwards, so the case is really an overwhelming case."

Fast facts about Sarin gas

On Saturday, President Barack Obama said "well over 1,000 people were murdered" in the August 21 attack. The president proposed what he said would be a limited military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; however, he plans to seek authorization from Congress before taking any further steps.

Obama's recoil on striking Syria draws criticism from both sides

Sarin–a clear, tasteless and odorless nerve agent–is one of the most toxic chemical weapons. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, said a fraction of an ounce of sarin on a person's skin could be fatal.

"It can be absorbed across the skin, it can be absorbed into the lungs, across the eyes. It's pretty gruesome stuff," he said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live." "It is so indiscriminate...So you don't even know that you've been exposed, necessarily, until you suddenly start to get sick. And then, it starts pretty quickly and can degrade pretty quickly as well."

Top U.S. officials have said there's no doubt that the Syrian government was behind the attack, while Syrian officials have denied responsibility and blamed jihadists fighting with the rebels.

While British and U.S. intelligence reports say the attack involved chemical weapons, U.N. officials have stressed the importance of waiting for an official report from the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors.

The inspectors left Syria on Saturday, carrying evidence that will determine whether chemical weapons were used in the attack last month. Those results could take up to three weeks.

Could Syria strike back if United States, allies, attack?

In a series of television interviews on Sunday, Kerry defended the president’s decision to seek authorization from Congress before taking military action, saying the move will make the United States “stronger in the end” should the country decide to move forward with a strike.

“It's amazing to me to see people suddenly standing up and taking such affront at the notion that Congress ought to weigh in," he said on CNN. "I mean, I can hear the complaints that would have taken place if the president proceeded unilaterally and people say, ‘Well why didn't you take the time to consult?'”

Addressing concerns that a congressional vote may not take place until next week, Kerry said military action against Syria is not something that needs to happen as soon as possible, like previous situations.

“Since it is not an emergency overnight, as we saw in a place like Libya, where people were about to be slaughtered. Since we have the right to strike at any time if Assad is foolish enough to engage in yet another attack, we believe that it is important before this takes place to have the full investment of the American people and of the Congress,” he told CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

It's unclear how both chambers of Congress will vote on military action in Syria, as the debate is expected to intensify in the coming days. Congress returns from recess on September 9, but some are calling for lawmakers to come back earlier for a special session so a decision can be made sooner.

Critics have accused the president of being weak and not taking the initiative to launch a strike on his own. Kerry reiterated that Obama has the right to make that call "at any point in time" but added he's "confident" Congress will "do what is right."

"I personally believe at a time when the institutions of governance are being doubted by many people, I think this is a very courageous decision. I think it is a big presidential decision, and no one should misinterpret it, particularly Assad or the opposition," he said.

With the British Parliament voting last week against joining a military invention, Kerry argued the United States still has a "coalition of more than a few" and predicted broader support "as the evidence comes out."

"I think voices will grow over the next days as people see the evidence, and that evidence is becoming more powerful every day," he said.

Asked about the risk of Congress potential voting down authorization, Kerry insisted on "Fox News Sunday" that he doesn't believe that will happen on Capitol Hill.

"I can't contemplate that the Congress would turn its back on all of that responsibility and the fact that we would have in fact granted impunity to a ruthless dictator to continue to gas his people. Those are the stakes," he said. "And I don't believe the Congress will do that."

Filed under: John Kerry • State of the Union • Syria
soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Congress was FOR action until Pres Obama made the decision and then immediately said NO action. Republicans are just shitting all over the country and blaming the Pres for the smell

    September 1, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Dark side of the Planet

    I will close GITMO, I will bring our troops home, I will reform Immigration laws, I will come up with Obama Care, I will create jobs, It is time for CHANGES! And everyone will be happy, happy, happy! (All we hear are crickets in the far distance) And people keep on voting. Nothing new.

    September 1, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. John Thomas, MD

    Yes, SecState Kerry, we know Sarin gas was used... However, we DO NOT KNOW who was responsible for delivering it to these people to their deaths... We do not know if Assad and his government did it, or the Mossad of Israel or someone else who may benefit from our knee-jerk reaction to bomb Syria... We did that in Iraq based on a lie, and we are not stupid, yet again – or are we SecState Kerry?... I hope to God that Congress will demand proof of who did it, and not what they did it with...

    September 1, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Dave Rogers

    Even if Assad's government used the gas... which is not all... There's just no need to go lobbing a billion bucks worth of armament into Syria.

    Also... if Congress votes this war down, it will be the very first time in US history that Congress has declined a war. It's not like Obama is risking much here. Congress is corrupt, unprincipled and sleazy. Asking them for a war is like asking the Easter Bunny for an egg.

    Bottom line... The Saudis, the UAE, and Qatar now have SuperPACs. If you don't think they are buying influence in
    US Middle East policies, then you haven't noticed our wars shifting to be against the Shia.

    Word is, Afghanistan is actually going to end. There's won't be 20k troops there "after the war"...That's new too.

    September 1, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  5. Jim37015

    If Congress does whats right, they'll listen to the people they are supposed to be working for....The US Citizen.

    They need to keep us out of this just like the other countries are doing. This economy can't take another war. We haven't even recovered from the last 20 years. These nuts will bring this to American soil in terrorist attacks, causing more limited freedoms and more massive security expenses.

    September 1, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  6. joe macey

    They better do something fast because Assad is moving weapons into civilian areas. We better act soon. Assad in one sick fellow.

    September 1, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. Loathstheright

    Republicans will simply do the opposite of what Obama wants no matter what it is.

    September 1, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  8. straighttalk

    Congress do the right thing? You have got to be kidding? These lying SOB's have no no clue what they are doing because halve the time they are high on dope or drunk. Congress is a joke and a big laugh. We do not care what they have to say or what they do. Congress is irrelevant and so is the US Senate, the FBI and the CIA and the White House. Get it?

    September 1, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  9. Hal

    Everyone in Congress should just vote 'present' and let obama decide.

    September 1, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  10. Funguseater

    So they found evidence of Sarin? Every Highschool Chem teacher in the US can make Sarin the instructions were printed in the Poor Mans James Bond decades ago and you can get that on Amazon, WTF???

    September 1, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  11. Syrel Moquia

    Bashar Al- Assad he is a Satan. Lets kill Satan.

    September 2, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  12. J.V.Hodgson

    The redline was, "no use of chemical weapons!" He ( Obama) did not say or assume by whom.
    It is a known and historically provable fact that Syrian government and its armed forces had chemical weapons and delivery systems capability. There is no evidence the " rebels do" have chemical weapons or the necessary delivery systems. If it exists show me!?
    That methinks makes it most likely Syrian government backed forces did this atrocity. The UN team do not need weeks to prove Sarin or any other likely nerve gas agent. Via a mass spectrometer properly set up it does not take days or weeks.
    That said it is so naïve to assume that independent proof can establish that the Syrian Gov of Bashir Al Assad launched the attacks. For me there have been too many , too widespread, across the Syrian nation for it to have been Rebel dominated/ driven ??? Who would supply the Rebels?? Alqaeda? They might be able to make the stuff but not the delivery mechanisms as well.
    That said I never, ever want to see SINGLE US BOOT IN SYRIA, or even with a diplomatic solution any US involvement.
    Reason their culture and religion are so antithetical to ours, it has no chance of success.. want proof look at Iraq!!

    September 2, 2013 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
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