John Kerry defends Obama's decision not to attack Syria in 2013

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry arrive to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York, September 28, 2015. (AFP photo)

US Secretary of State John Kerry has defended President Barack Obama's decision not to attack Syria more than two years ago because diplomacy was able to prevail.

Kerry said on Tuesday that US allies and critics alike are “dead wrong” for criticizing the Obama administration for not taking military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in 2013.

Kerry made the remarks during an interview with MSNBC when asked whether American allies and enemies could take the US seriously after it did not strike Syria following accusations that the Syrian government launched a chemical attack near Damascus.

Obama had said in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “red line” that would prompt a military response from the United States.

A military strike in the country seemed imminent in 2013 after US intelligence accused the Assad government of launching a chemical attack on militant strongholds.

Damascus rejected the allegation. Syria said such attacks were carried out by the Takfiri Daesh (ISIL) terrorists. Russia has also maintained that there is no solid proof that Damascus was behind the attacks.

"I accept that friends of ours have decided that the president's non-strike has somehow impacted perceptions of us,” Kerry said in response to a question from Nicole Wallace, a former communications adviser for George W. Bush.

“But I believe they are dead wrong, and I think the critics are dead wrong, and here's why: The president made his decision to strike. He announced his decision to strike publicly, and the purpose of the strike was to get the chemical weapons out of Syria. That's the purpose,” the top US diplomat said.

Kerry confirmed late last year that the United States had “removed and destroyed” all Syrian chemical weapons that were declared by Damascus.

On Monday, Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the crisis in Syria and agreed on ways of fighting the Daesh terrorists.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in a meeting which lasted 90 minutes.

A senior US official, however, said Obama and Putin "fundamentally disagreed" on the role of Assad in Syria.

As part of a plan to fight against Daesh terrorists, Russia has been beefing up its military presence in Syria, deploying warplanes, tanks and personnel to an airfield in the port city of Latakia.

Putin has said that Russia's support for the Assad government was in accordance with the UN Charter, since "we have been providing assistance to legitimate government entities only." 

The Russian president denounced US support for militants in Syria as illegal and ineffective.

"In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter," he told US media on Sunday ahead of his meeting with Obama.

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