Failure by the United States to take military action against Syria would send a dangerous signal to Iran, Hezbollah and other U.S. foes, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
"Iran is hoping you look the other way," Kerry told lawmakers as he made the case for Congress to endorse punitive US strikes against the Syrian regime over its suspected use of chemical weapons.
"Our inaction would surely give them (Iran) a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during hearings.
Hezbollah militants in Lebanon are "hoping that isolationism will prevail" and "North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day," he said.
"They are all listening for our silence."
Kerry said the debate about military strikes against Syria is not about President Barack Obama's "red line" that weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated.
Instead, Kerry told the panel that "this debate is about the world's red line." He says it is "a red line that anyone with a conscience ought to draw."
Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were dispatched to the Senate to help persuade lawmakers to support a resolution authorizing limited military strikes against Syria following a chemical weapons attack last month outside Damascus that left hundreds dead, including many children.
Kerry said "This is not the time for arm-chair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter."
The United States must "stand up and act" to punish the Syrian regime and cannot resort to isolationism in the face of "slaughter," he added.
"Neither our country nor our conscience can afford the cost of silence," Kerry said."We have spoken up against unspeakable horror. Now we must stand up and act," he added.
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