News / Middle East

Kerry: Syrian Gas Attack Crossed 'Global Red Line'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby before the start of a meeting with representatives of the Arab League at the United States Embassy in Paris, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby before the start of a meeting with representatives of the Arab League at the United States Embassy in Paris, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States and its allies are not seeking to "take over" Syria’s civil war by carrying out an anticipated American-led air strike to stop President Bashar al-Assad's regime from using poison gas again.

But he said the alleged chemical attack on August 21 that killed more than 1,400 people - including 426 children - in areas outside Damascus populated by opposition supporters had crossed an “international, global red line.”

Speaking in Paris Sunday after meeting Arab League ministers to seek support for air strikes in Syria, Kerry said the Obama administration is distributing videos of the attack to help convince Americans and Congress to back a military intervention against the Syrian government.
 
He said the videos make clear the attack killed "real people, real children" and is not something Americans can ignore.

Kerry said Arab governments would be making decisions on whether to assist a possible U.S.-led air campaign within the next 24 hours.

He said that because Assad has used poison gas multiple times and has one of the largest stockpiles in the world, the U.S., Qatar and a growing number of allies are "certain" they must act to ensure he never uses chemical weapons again.

In an interview with CBS television to air Monday, Assad denied he had ordered the August 21 attack and said evidence was not conclusive it had even taken place. He said he is concerned that an air strike on Syria would degrade his military and tip the balance in the conflict.

Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper Sunday cited German intelligence in reporting that Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Syrian presidency to allow them to use chemical weapons for more than four months, but permission had always been denied.

German intelligence officers suggested that could mean Assad may not have personally approved the attack.

In Washington, more bipartisan, classified briefings for Congress on the situation in Syria are set for Monday and Tuesday -- which Kerry said he would participate in.
 
"The vast majority of members of Congress - House and Senate - are undecided. And that's why the videos are being shown and the briefings are taking place," Kerry said.

The U.S. Congress is expected to vote on possible U.S. action against Syria in coming weeks. A key Senate panel voted last Wednesday in favor of action.

President Barack Obama takes his case for targeted military strikes on Damascus directly to the American people in a televised speech Tuesday.  

Earlier Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he believes there should be a strong response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, despite a British parliament vote that rejected joining military action against the Assad government.

Hague said "the use of chemical weapons in the 21st century is an evil that we have to stand up to" and that the U.S. is seeking a "limited, proportionate response to the use of chemical weapons to try to deter the use of [such] weapons."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
x
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
On Saturday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton read a statement calling for a "clear and strong response" to the attack in Syria but stopped short of specifying military action.

Ashton said the EU wants Syria's crisis to be addressed by the United Nations. She said any further action against Damascus should be delayed until a U.N. chemical weapons team presents its findings.

Kerry repeated Sunday that President Barack Obama had not made a decision on waiting on the report from the U.N. team.

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday al-Qaida-linked Islamic fighters have taken control of a historic Christian village north of Damascus. The Observatory said regime forces had withdrawn from Maalula after clashing with the Nusra Front.

Syrian state media denied the claims, saying government forces were winning the battle.

The scenic mountain community is on a UNESCO list of tentative world heritage sites. It is one of the few places in the world where residents still speak the ancient Middle Eastern language of Aramaic.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More