In a small but symbolic victory that may prove powerful in convincing legislators ahead of next week's congressional debates, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday that Saudi Arabia has agreed to support military action in Syria.
Following meetings with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby and nine other Arab foreign ministers Sunday, Kerry said that "a number of countries" have agreed to sign a statement denouncing Syria's use of chemical weapons and — crucially — blaming the attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Saud and Saudi Arabia have signed on to the G-20 agreement,” Kerry said, referring to the denunciation approved last week by over half of the G20. “[They] have supported the strike and they support taking action."
“As we discussed today, all of us agreed — not one dissenter — that (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad’s deplorable use of chemical weapons — which we know killed hundreds of innocent people, including at least 426 children on this occasion, this one occasion — this crosses an international, global red line,” he said.
He also said the videos showing the chemical attack, revealed recently via NBC, make clear that the assault killed "real people, real children" and cannot be ignored. (He did not indicate what killing "fake" people would involve.)
It's unlikely, though, that Saudi Arabia would take direct military action in Syria, as doing so would presumably cause ripples along an already uneasy Arab Peninsula.
The Syrian government remains adamant that it had nothing to do with the August 21 gas attacks which the White House says killed over 1,400 Syrian civilians. Al-Assad again denied his involvement with the assault during an interview with Charlie Rose on Sunday, to be aired in full on The Charlie Rose Show on PBS Monday night. The Syrian President did not, however, confirm or deny the use of chemical warfare by his government as a whole.
Kerry now heads to London, where he will be holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ostensibly about the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli negotiation process, but where discussions are likely to be overshadowed by the Syrian crisis. The secretary of state will then meet with UK foreign secretary William Hague before returning to Washington.