September 1st, 2013
09:03 AM ET
10 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. who cares

    " Since we have the right to strike at any time " Do you really and may i ask you who gave you this right

    September 1, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  2. BC

    release the samples for multiple independent parties to analyze. then come back to the American people

    September 1, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  3. Jay

    Still not gonna sell me this war folks. It's a Sunni, Shia conflict. Has nothing to do with us.

    September 1, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  4. mary

    Yes there was gas but the BIG Question is actually WHO deployed it ?
    I've even seen a report in the examiner that it was the result of untrained people handling it and not a planned attack .
    Question : WHO deployed it & What is that evidence ?

    September 1, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  5. joney

    Word is the regime had advance warning before the attack took place

    September 1, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  6. Dirt grub

    Will those tests confirm that it was the Assad regime that who used the gas?

    September 1, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  7. Paul LeBlanc

    "Since we have the right to strike at any time..." It's this trigger happy mentality that has put this country in these aggressive situations in the past. There needs to be a growth of the opposition to our military involvement in Syria. Protests are already taking seed in Boulder Colorado and elsewhere. I have no doubt that the President wanted to strike last week. He has forgotten how he opposed such a hasty move during his predecessor's administration.
    I am outraged by any use of chemical weapons, but I think the level that this country is assisting the anti Assad regime now is enough and even then perhaps questionable.

    September 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  8. turley

    The president seems to not know what to do.

    September 1, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  9. BO

    We know gas was used Kerry. The question is who was using it?

    September 1, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  10. HeyHey

    Iraqi made

    September 1, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  11. Rick

    Yes, but does this prove if it was Assad, or the rebels, that used the weapons?

    September 1, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  12. Rev.Christie Bliss Ley

    We need to stop playing the Big Brother roles. Stay out of other countries arrairs, and take care of our own.

    September 1, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  13. Josh

    Reminds me of when Colin Powell assured us that Iraq had WMD's...

    September 1, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  14. Tommy Gun

    Stay out of Syria! Let somebody else fix this mess!

    September 1, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  15. Mark Morand

    Many news reports are indicating that "Top U.S. officials have said there's no doubt that the Syrian government was behind the attack." Where is the proof? America wants to see the proof. The news agencies and government officials can't keep saying that there is "no doubt'. Let us make that conclusion.

    Today's news reports are openly running with the subject "there's no doubt" and they are allowing the government to skate with their claims.

    American citizens have watched online videos showing Al-Qaeda Rebels using Chemical Weapons in Syria. Where is America's investigative news reporting? Where is real news any more in this country?

    September 1, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  16. Dave Rogers

    I wish they wouldn't try to morally justify these wars.. They're in charge. They can just do what they want to do. There's no need for evil war lords to get together and come up with a cover story.

    Just be evil.

    September 1, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  17. John Smith

    The big issue still has not been answered, who used the gas, rebels or the government.

    September 1, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  18. Kyle G.

    "the U.S. obtained the samples independently through an "appropriate chain of custody,"

    I call bulls^^t. Where's the transparency we've been promised? You can't convince the rest of the world to go with us into attacking Syria so you fabricate evidence, just like GWB did, to try and get us to jump on the band wagon.


    September 1, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  19. John Smith

    The big issue is who used the gas, the rebels or the government?

    September 1, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  20. drock615

    Don't believe the hype. Why not be intelligent and wait for the UN inspector reports? Obama is losing all respect that I had for him by falling for this story. There is too many holes in it. There is reports that the rebels mishandled this gas. Kerry is a pushover anyway. Wait until the proper reports are out. Don't just fall for what these politicians say. Be smart.

    September 1, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  21. livingston

    Congress should be careful what they ask for. Now the tests show that sarin was used. If they vote 'no' then they give the green light for every two pit despot to use it on anyone they want and if they vote 'yes' they have to admit the President was right all along. So the balls in their court now. What say you Congress? Are you willing to okay the use of chemical weapons/

    September 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  22. Jose Rivera

    I'm with Obama 100%. I shoult strike Syria and help those children asking for help. Would be better if the international community help, we need to take some action against those terrorist!

    September 1, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  23. Mansuo

    The United States always lie to the world to justify their case to go to war. This is another calculated attempt to go to war. Is about time the US mind their own business and stop putting their noses into where it doesn't belong to. You have killed enough innocent people already in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is enough. No more killing in Syria.

    September 1, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  24. T E X A S

    We need to sit this one matter how gruesome the facts. Left and Right largely agree.

    September 1, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  25. CNN

    No more war

    September 1, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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