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Kerry to sell attack on Syria

China Daily/Agencies | Updated: 2013-09-01 23:47

Secretary of state to use influence in US Congress

When the Senate takes up the issue of whether to back White House plans to attack Syria, there may be few more effective or passionate lobbyists for the administration than US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was a member of that exclusive club for 28 years.

Kerry last week described Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons as "a moral obscenity" and, in a separate appearance, called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "a thug and a murderer".

According to people with knowledge of the administration's debates, Kerry has argued for a more muscular US involvement in the conflict even as he has been its point man on searching for a diplomatic solution.

"He has been much more open-minded about potential lethal action than others in the administration," said a former US official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The son of a US diplomat, Kerry came to the job of secretary of state after nearly three decades in the Senate, all of them on the Foreign Relations Committee.

That experience could come in handy as the White House makes its case to Congress for action on Syria in retaliation for the purported Aug 21 attack that US officials say killed more than 1,400 people.

Kerry's strong remarks came on an issue where other top US officials, including President Barack Obama at times, have kept a lower profile.

Obama on Saturday said he believed that military force should be used against Syria, but he backed away from an imminent strike to seek the approval of Congress, a move likely to delay an attack for at least 10 days.

"The value of John Kerry getting out there to the president is that he can speak to that audience, and he can speak to the international audience, and he can speak to the American people," said Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Obama's decision to seek congressional approval before going ahead with a military strike on Syria is the start of a US "retreat", Syrian state media said on Sunday.

"Obama announced yesterday, directly or through implication, the beginning of the historic American retreat," said the comments, which were carried in a front-page editorial in Syria's official al-Thawra newspaper.

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