Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States now has evidence Syria used sarin gas in a recent attack on civilians and predicted Congress will back President Barack Obama in his decision to launch a limited attack on the Syrian government.
"Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] have used these weapons in time of war," Kerry said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." The attack killed more than 1,000, including 426 children, sparking outrage after video was released of victims suffering and dead.
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Kerry, appearing on five Sunday talk shows to make the administration's case, said Congress will not "turn its back on this moment" and insisted the measure "will pass" when pressed about uneasiness among some members of the House and Senate.
Kerry said that first responders in Syria "have tested positive for signatures of sarin" in blood and hair samples.
Kerry denied he opposed letting Congress weigh in on whether the United State should take military action, but said there was an agreement in the national security team that the president has the right to do so, and a discussion was recently held that examined options.
Obama decided to get a vote from Congress, saying it would add "moral authority" to the effort.
"The president then made the decision that he thought we would be stronger, and the United States would act with more moral authority and with greater strength if we acted in a united way," Kerry said.
Iran, which is pursuing a nuclear weapons program is watching to see what the United States does, Kerry said. "Israel is at risk, Jordan is at risk, Turkey is at risk, the region is at risk. And we believe that the Congress of the United States will do what is responsible."
Asked whether Obama would act if Congress doesn't approve a military strike, Kerry said, "I said that the president has the authority to act, but the Congress is going to do what's right here."
Kerry told ABC News This Week's George Stephanopoulos Sunday that the Obama administration isn't waiting until Sept. 9, when Congress returns to session, to make its case.
"We're not really waiting," said Kerry. "There is a briefing today, and there will also be briefings, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We think this will help us build our case."
Kerry said Congress" will do the right thing. We are not going to lose this vote."
The extra time will also give the United States time to build its case on an international level and reach out to allies in hopes of finding help in taking military action against Syria.
Last week, the British Parliament rejected becoming involved in the Syrian action, but France remains committed to joining the fight.
Meanwhile, Assad has been boasting that the president's decision to wait for congressional approval means shows the weakness of the United States, a development that Kerry said will only make Congress' decision easier.
"The more he stands up and crows, the more he will help this decision to be made correctly," said Kerry.
Further, Obama is not planning to make the strikes part of a larger military campaign, Kerry insisted.
"He's not talking about taking over this civil war," said Kerry, noting that the president does not want to put "boots on the ground," but instead to enforce international prohibitions against the use of chemical weapons.
Kerry said that the United States has not ruled out what it can do through diplomatic channels, "but that doesn't mean the U.S. shouldn't make it clear" that chemical weapons attacks won't be tolerated.
The secretary of state said the United States is also presenting its case to Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin has called the news that Assad ordered chemical weapons to be used "nonsense."
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"We've sent people over to Russia," said Kerry. "Whether they choose to believe it or not, or at least acknowledge it publicly, we will lay it out there for everybody to judge... I think it's going to be very hard for anybody ultimately to ignore it.
Kerry said he is also not worried about statements issued by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina that they will reject plans that do not effectively back the opposition side in the Syrian civil war.
"I don't think they want to vote ultimately to put Israel at risk," said Kerry. "I think they can be and will be satisfied."
Kerry, on Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," defended the president's decision to wait until Congress reconvenes in nine days to approve any military action against the brutal Assad regime, even as a number of lawmakers said this weekend that waiting was the wrong tactic.
"Our country is much stronger when we act together," Kerry said. "Already Assad is on the defensive. He's moving assets around. If the Assad regime would be foolish enough to attack in the meantime, the president knows the U.S. has the power to [step in] and I assume he would move very rapidly."
Kerry said waiting makes the U.S. position against Assad stronger.
"This will happen with the consent of Congress and be much more powerful and allow us to do more planning," he said of the wait calling Obama's thinking "smart and courageous."
"He was not trying to create an imperial presidency. He was trying to respect the process by which we are strongest in this country," Kerry said. "I think we can create an unity of purpose here that actually makes America stronger that is much more damaging and much more problematic for Assad."
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