The U.N. General Assembly convenes next week, and Secretary of State John Kerry is not taking any chances on Syria.
As world leaders converge on New York on Wednesday, the U.S. will press the U.N. Security Council to finalize a mechanism to find and destroy Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile, a deal that Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to over the weekend. But while there was an agreement between these two nations, they still remain divided over the fundamental point that led to this agreement, and previously a military threat from the U.S.: who was responsible for a chemical-weapons attack that killed more than 1,000 people.
The findings from a U.N. report released this week “were as categorical as they were convincing” that the Syrian government—and not opposition fighters—carried out the attack, Kerry said from the State Department on Thursday. While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that he had not read the U.N. report and could not comment on it, Russia has already lambasted it, calling it biased and incomplete.
Despite this disagreement, any sort of finalized plan regarding Syria’s weapons is dependent on cooperation from the Security Council, and more specifically between the U.S. and Russia.
But Kerry’s comments were not only a warning to Russia and the rest of the international community, they also served as a flat-out rebuttal to Assad’s comments since the attack. Kerry said, “This fight about Syria’s chemical weapons is not a game,” and the U.N. must act.
“I would say to the community of nations, time is short,” he said. “Let’s not spend time debating what we already know. Instead, we have to recognize that the world is watching to see whether we can avert military action and achieve through peaceful means even more than what those military strikes promised.”
And while Syria and Russia have blamed previous chemical-weapons attacks on the opposition fighters, whom Assad has dubbed “terrorists,” Kerry said Thursday that “there’s not a shred of evidence” that the opposition has the capabilities to carry out such an attack.
What We're Following See More »
Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.
"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.
"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."
"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.