Kerry: We're not going to war in Syria, Assad could avoid strike

US Secretary of State repeats Obama's message that military action in Syria would not be a repeat of Iraq or Afghanistan.

John Kerry William Hague London 9.9.13 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
John Kerry William Hague London 9.9.13 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
US Secretary State of John Kerry vowed Monday that the United States was not about to embark on a long-term military adventure in Syria, echoing President Barack Obama's pledge that any action would not be a repeat of the two controversial American wars of the past decade.  He also offered the embattled Syrian leader a way to deter a possible American attack.
"That's not what we are talking about. We are not going to war. We will not have people at risk that way," he said during a press conference with his British counterpart William Hague in London. "We will be able to hold Bashar Assad accountable .... in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort."
He said he understood the American and European people's reticence about military action, but said that the risk of not acting in Syria was greater than the risk of acting.
Obama has declared his intent to take military action against the Assad regime for its apparent use of chemical weapons, most recently in neighborhoods on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.
Obama and Kerry have been making a persistent case for military action both domestically and internationally. Key Assad ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has insisted that there is not sufficient proof of such attacks and has come out strongly against any American strike on Syrian soil.
Kerry said Monday that Syria could prevent a military attack, however, if Assad handed over all his chemical weapons to the international community within the next week, but added that Assad was not about to do so.
When asked by a reporter whether there was anything Assad's government could do or offer to stop an attack, Kerry said:
"Sure, 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 [of it] but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done."
Kerry also stressed the relationship between Britain and the United States was as strong as ever despite the British parliament having decided not to join military action against Syria.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron suffered an embarrassing defeat in parliament last month, when the lawmakers voted against any British involvement in military action in Syria. Polls have shown that the vote was a reflection of the sentiments of the UK population, which has also seen hundreds of its troops perish in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kerry had harsh words about Syrian President Bashar Assad, recalling a time he had confronted the Syria leader about the transfer of Scud missiles and Assad had "lied to my face."
There is a "certain arrogance about the man", Kerry said. He is "without credibility."