The nation's chief diplomat, commenting on Syria and the possible use of chemical weapons, did not leave much in the way of wiggle room this afternoon.
Hinting at a military response, Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday accused Syria of using chemical weapons against its people and destroying the evidence, and said President Barack Obama believes "there must be accountability."Kerry, using forceful language in a brief statement to reporters, said images that have emerged from Syria in the past week -- entire families killed without shedding a drop of blood, bodies contorting in spasms -- "shock the conscience of the world."He said the evidence was "undeniable" that the Syrian regime had used chemical agents. And he said the president feels there must be accountability for those who use "the world's most heinous weapons."
The remarks come just hours after U.N. inspectors, investigating the possible use of a poison gas attack in Syria, came under sniper fire and were forced to temporarily retreat. Officials eventually returned, however, collected blood samples, and interviewed survivors.
For his part, Assad argued, "Would any state use chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic." The Syrian leader added, "Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day."
Syria's allies in Russia, meanwhile, relied on the credibility the U.S. lost during the Bush/Cheney era to question the reliability of the intelligence. Alexander Lukashevich, spokesperson for Russia' foreign ministry, said, "All these things force us to remember the events of 10 years ago, when false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was used as a pretext by the U.S., who went around the UN on an undertaking, the consequences of which are well-known to all. We again firmly urge to not repeat the mistakes of the past, and not to allow actions that are out of accord with international rights."