White House signals impending attack on Syrian forces

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

The world needs to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Secretary of State John Kerry declared today.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. … [It] is a moral obscenity,” he said Monday afternoon. “By any standard it is inexcusable … [and] it is undeniable,” he said in the State Department’s press room.

His strong language suggests that the White House is planning to strike Syrian forces, likely the combat units that apparently fired chemical-tipped rockets into a suburb of Damascus packed with sleeping civilians, to deter future use of chemical weapons by other governments.

“The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself,” he said. “The is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all. … This international norm cannot be violated with consequences,” he said.

President Barack Obama did not made a statement today, and Kerry did not take questions.

Any U.S. intervention in Syria will likely help the Sunni jihadi rebels who are fighting the Iranian-backed Syrian regime, based in Damascus.

But any intervention in Syria may precipitate a direct clash with Iran. It likely will also create a clash with Russia and China, both of which can stop the United Nations from approving U.S. strikes.

Kerry’s statement did not mention the United Nations. That omission suggests Obama may work with NATO allies, as he did to overthrow Libya’s dictator in 2011.

“The president will be making an informed decision about how to respond. … President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” Kerry said.

“Nothing is more serious.”

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