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. barbara

    Yes, it was used and the REBELS who used it. And yes Congress will do the right thing and vote no.

    September 1, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  2. drowlord

    Does it matter if we believe them? Not our fight. We can't afford it, and we have no interests there. If this is a question for international community ethics, let the UN decide what must happen.

    September 1, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. HMM...

    Congrees should...JUST...SAY...NO...TO...BHO...BHO made the dumb statements about an arbitrary "red line"...BHOhas not proved a direct threat to U. S. national security...BHO is drunk with drone-killing power...BHO is trigger-happy now...and BHO needs another distraction from Benghazi and Fast and Furious coverups, IRS election interfence, NSA snooping...

    September 1, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. G

    tell saudi-arbia bush has left the arena –let the arab countrys protect their people for once and stop the killings instead of passing the buck

    September 1, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. HMM...

    Congress should keep BHO from "acting stupidly"...and refuse to approve BHO's plan...

    September 1, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. Charlie

    Congress please say NO...we are broke and let the middle east sort it out themselves!

    September 1, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. jimminn

    John Kerry Why don't you take John Bolden and any other politicians that want this war and lead a ground attack.

    September 1, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  8. mazen abu alwaleed

    if congress will vote no ... thats will be a great loss for usa ,,, usa is not an isolated island ... a big part of american prosperity built during the cold war ,, in stead of phobia of iraq war ... we should figure out why us army suffered there ,, they suffered because the bad choices of the leaders not because the war itself ,, america can be happier and more peace if it attack syria and iran and nothing so bad will happen ,, although all the traying of media to attract people by trying drawing iran as a real strong country but the truth is iran not a strong and syria weaker but bush chose the wrong choice by arrcking iraq which was more strong that syria and one day before than iran itself ,,.if usa wont attack iran now that mean it will not be able to do it later and one day iran will attack oil countries and israel ... so really sometimes the weakness of obama render me missing bush !!!

    September 1, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. johnk

    This involvement is a very big mistake!! If we get involved it is only to support the military industrial complex and we the middle class tax payers will pay for the use of weapons, the support to the militant rebels with more weapons by us in Syria and in the end the rebels in Syria will turn against us. It is pathetic both the Presidents and most of Congress have never learn the lessons of our past involvements in other country's internal affairs in which we loose both economically, financially, and politically as to most other nations not respecting us in our involvement .

    September 1, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  10. JamesPhilips

    Congress will "do what is right." by voting no.

    September 1, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Janet

    Hmm, so the UN inspectors couldn't get in to the area for days, yet US people were? Who are these so called people, and what are their expertise? This is as crooked as a corkscrew here.

    September 1, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Congress shold say NO,it is not right for us to go and kill more people,has nothing to do wiht us.

    September 1, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. Darlene Buckingham

    Just say NO. If the congress says yes they are going against the will of the people. We are sick and tired of war – anyone who is beating the war drums now is doing it for greed and their own egos – not for self defense. Now is the time on planet earth to care against and create beauty living in dignity. PEace to ALL.

    September 1, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. Dastreagus

    if you give an inch to the DoD CIA liars they'll put their foot in the door and cost you a hundred billion dollars. Vote no. Absolutely no. Any republican that votes yes to military intervention in september better be tight lipped through octobers spending limit talk. I really think this war is fake, and is a way to use war talk and hawk talk to step around fiscal responsibility AGAIN.

    September 1, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. Sue

    Google: Syria chemical weapons accident. The administration is ignoring this. Yesterday, I posted a link to an article about this on Facebook to quite a few top people in the administration and House/Senate and to some Facebook pages for several of the big news sites. Facebook then accused me of sending out spam. I also tweeted this same article to several people including Susan Rice, who I couldn’t find on Facebook. The administration is ignoring this and claiming what they want to claim. Also, I didn’t see anything about this on any of the big news sites today. The government should at least investigate the claim by the rebels that they accidentally caused the “attack.”

    September 1, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  16. If I had a hammer... I'd whack you in the morning

    JESUS F CHRIST Mr. KERRY ...Congress hasn't done the right thing YET!
    what are you sniffing Mr SOS ...glue?

    September 1, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Traditional American

    So? There was unmistakeable proof that Saddam used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds. At least in Iraq we made sure there were no more WMD's. In Syria Obama's response is "Go ahead and keep them for future use"

    September 1, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  18. victorygin

    The congressional approval comment is being used by Barrack to allow him to back off his earlier statements and have someone else to blame either way. If congress says no he can escape his earlier threats. If they say yes he can say he had congressional approval if it goes badly. Bush sought approval but never to cover his rear end. Obama is like school on Saturday. No class. (oh and Sadam had used wmd's against the Kurds so he had them at one time without question. If Iraq was a mistake then there is no excusing this one I bet they are sending the wmd's to Iran as we delay so nothing will be found this go around either.)

    September 1, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  19. victorygin

    "War is Peace. Slavery if freedom. Ignorance is Intelligence." G.O.
    "Meet the new Boss....

    September 1, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  20. Ron B


    tell saudi-arbia bush has left the arena –let the arab countrys protect their people for once and stop the killings instead of passing the buck'
    NAILED IT!!!

    September 1, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. Eve

    Let the Syria Allie Arab countries defend them . The line in the "sand " says we have had enough as Americans of fighting your battles .Congress vote NO !!!!!

    September 1, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  22. WhitleyResse

    It will be a quick session to get to the vote of NO! No, no, no and further more, no!

    September 1, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. Ryan

    God bless you guys for being so lucky to be born in America. Imagine your child being poisoned to death. Now if it were you sitting in these places with your children being slaughtered and raped, I'm pretty sure you would also want help. I think with being one of the greatest nations on the planet, we are a quite selfish society. No jobs (none you are willing to work for) Bad president (Doesn't have much power anyways) and complain about everything under the sun that doesn't go YOUR way. Yet you are not being poisoned to death, slaughtered, or (hopefully not) raped by 10 men at a time. Come on get a damn grip and help people in need.

    September 1, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Scott Moore

    This is a replay from the war in Iraq. It's EXACTLY the same plot, different actors. The American people should oppose another war with all their will and might. Congress should oppose the president with all their votes. The Obama administration is a disaster. Enough damage already. Obama was to take American on a new course, not the same one.

    September 1, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. lex

    Obama is a wimp and his foreign policy is in shambles. He is a failure. Even do nothing would be a disaster, and the worst of all options.

    September 1, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
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