Former Secretary of State John Kerry said former President Barack Obama should have followed through on his infamous “red line” warning to Syria, and the United States “paid a price” as a result of Obama’s inaction.
Obama vowed in 2012 that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons on civilians, it would be a “game changer” for U.S. military involvement in Syria.
But Obama failed to enforce the promise a year later when hundreds of Syrians were killed in a sarin gas attack, and he instead brokered a multi-nation deal in which Assad pledged to remove his chemical weapons stockpile.
On “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Kerry said he was unable to persuade Obama that Assad “needed to be taught a lesson,” and it’s “regrettable” the red line was not enforced.
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“I put several ideas on the table. The president was not persuaded by my argument. I believed that we had several options we could have done at very low risk to be able to make it clear to Assad that when we had a cease fire and when he said he was going to live by it, he had to live by it. And I thought we should have done that,” Kerry said.
Kerry added that, for many people, the decision changed the perception of Obama and his foreign policy.
“We paid a price for the way it played out without the red line being enforced by the bombing,” he said.
Kerry noted, however, the U.S. was able to achieve the main objective of getting chemical weapons out of Syria – though just how successful the U.S. was is up for debate. Assad is believed to have used chemical weapons in the years since Obama left office, including one instance that prompted a retaliatory airstrike ordered by President Trump.
“Absolutely correct,” Kerry said. “And I supported President Trump’s response to those partially. I supported the use of force, but I don’t support just a one-off where you drop a few bombs and there’s no follow-up diplomacy and no additional effort to try to use the leverage you get out of doing that.”
He said he believes both Obama and Trump should have employed that strategy, arguing the U.S. and global community failed to hold a “war criminal” accountable.
Watch the segment from Kerry’s “Face the Nation” interview below.
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