Kerry Says ‘Raw Data’ Points to New Syria Chemical Strikes

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at an airport in the United Kingdom on Wednesday. Kerry on Thursday said unconfirmed, "raw data" appears to support French assertions that Syria's government launched over a dozen chemical attacks in recent months.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
May 15, 2014, 10:01 a.m.

U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said un­con­firmed “raw data” ap­pears to back French find­ings that Syr­ia launched more than a dozen new chem­ic­al at­tacks.

“It has been made clear by Pres­id­ent Obama and oth­ers that use would res­ult in con­sequences,” Kerry said in Lon­don on Thursday. “We’re not go­ing to pin ourselves down to a pre­cise time, date, man­ner of ac­tion, but there will be con­sequences if it were to be proven.”

Kerry made the re­marks when asked about De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel’s Wed­nes­day com­ment that he had “not seen any evid­ence of the spe­cif­ics” be­hind as­ser­tions laid out this week by French For­eign Min­is­ter Laurent Fabi­us. The top French dip­lo­mat ac­cused Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment of us­ing chem­ic­al arms on at least 14 oc­ca­sions since late Oc­to­ber.

Hagel, speak­ing to re­port­ers in Saudi Ar­a­bia, noted that al­leg­a­tions of re­cent chlor­ine-gas use in Syr­ia’s civil war are un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion by the world’s chem­ic­al-weapons watch­dog.

The Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons must “deeply” scru­tin­ize the al­leg­a­tions, be­cause any new use of chem­ic­al arms in the 3-year-old con­flict may carry sig­ni­fic­ant im­plic­a­tions, the Pentagon chief said.

“If there has been a con­tin­ued use or any use of chem­ic­al weapons, that would af­fect” an in­ter­na­tion­al ef­fort to dis­mantle the As­sad re­gime’s chem­ic­al ar­sen­al, Hagel said. The gov­ern­ment pledged to re­lin­quish its chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als after sar­in nerve agent killed hun­dreds of people in a rebel-held Dam­as­cus sub­urb last Au­gust, prompt­ing threats of an in­ter­na­tion­al mil­it­ary re­sponse.

On Thursday, Hagel’s Is­raeli coun­ter­part joined France in char­ging As­sad’s re­gime with launch­ing chlor­ine-gas at­tacks, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted.

“We still see it now,” Is­raeli De­fense Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon said of chem­ic­al-weapons use by the gov­ern­ment in Dam­as­cus. He made the re­mark in Tel Aviv, dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with Hagel.

As­sad’s gov­ern­ment still has not placed roughly 100 met­ric tons of its de­clared chem­ic­al-arms sub­stances in in­ter­na­tion­al cus­tody, and wor­ries have per­sisted that the re­gime is con­ceal­ing some of its stock­piles, the Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted. Still, no signs have emerged that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is weigh­ing any new threat of force, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per.

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