Secretary of State John Kerry went to the Sunday talk shows to not only explain President Obama’s surprise decision to seek congressional authorization for a Syria strike, but also to build up support for an attack, speaking of mounting evidence that the Bashar al-Assad regime has used chemical weapons. Samples collected by first responders after the August 21 attack in the Damascus region have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin gas, Kerry said.
“In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States that have now been tested from first responders in east Damascus and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” Kerry said on NBC’s Meet The Press. “So this case is building and this case will build.” In June, France said sarin gas had been used several times in the Syria war.
On CNN, Kerry noted that “each day that goes by, this case is even stronger,” and at one point even called it “an overwhelming case.” The secretary of state said that Obama ended up deciding to ask Congress to OK a strike because it would mean the United States “would act with greater moral authority and greater strength.” Yet Kerry refused to say whether the White House would be willing to act if Congress rejects military action. “We don’t contemplate that Congress is going to vote no,” he said on CNN.
President Obama appears to have shocked most of his closest advisers by seeking approval from Congress for a potential attack, a decision his aides say he took alone. Indeed, “until Friday night, Mr. Obama’s national-security team didn’t even have an option on the table to seek a congressional authorization,” according to the Wall Street Journal.