On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry didn't help make the case to American citizens when he referred to the planned strike on Syria as an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” Kerry also implied there was a way for Assad to avoid this whole conflict, adding that “he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week, turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting for that.”
Sounds like an ultimatum.
The comments have received a barrage of criticism as President Obama continues a whirlwind campaign to try to gain support from the Senate, House, and the American people. Asked about Kerry's comments, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said, “That’s a very confusing message — certainly a confusing message to me that he would offer that as somebody who believes this is in our national security interest.”
The statement was made during a meeting in London with Britain's foreign secretary. According to the White House, Kerry's overall point was to address the threat of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago,” said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department.
On Monday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the country will try to pressure Syria's leaders to take the out and give up any chemical weapons in order to prevent a military engagement. Lavrov told Russian reporters that leaders in Moscow would urge Syria to move their chemical weapons to designated areas under international supervision, and then begin dismantling them.
For his part, Assad told PBS's Charlie Rose there is "no evidence" of a chemical attack, and warned that the U.S. would "pay the price" and should "expect everything" in retaliation for a strike against Syria.
Meanwhile, the White House is spending lots of time trying to convince foreign leaders and political heavy weights at home to support a strike in Syria. But it looks like they also have some work to do when it comes to convincing the majority of American citizens.
According to a poll done by CNN between September 6 and September 8, most Americans don't want the U.S. to strike Syria, even if Assad used chemical weapons. Nearly six out of 10 people think that launching a strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be a bad idea. And more than seven out of 10 people think that a strike isn't in the Unites States' national interest, though around 80 percent of people think that Assad did in fact use chemical weapons on his people. Somewhat contradictorily six out of 10 respondents in the NBC poll also said that the use of chemical weapons did in fact constitute a "red line" that should require a serious response from the U.S., including the possibility of military action.