Kerry: ‘Can’t Guarantee Outcome of Syria as a Whole’

September 4, 2013 - 4:11 PM

US Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing to advance President Barack Obama's request for congressional authorization for military intervention in Syria. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that he cannot guarantee the “outcome of Syria as a whole,” through U.S. intervention in the region, but he could guarantee the U.S. would make clear to Bashar al-Assad that it would cost him to use chemical weapons.

“I can’t give you a guarantee of the outcome of Syria as a whole, but I can give you a guarantee that the United States of America can make it clear to Assad that it’s going to cost him to use chemical weapons, and we can have an impact on deterring and degrading his capacity. That guarantee is what I can give you, and that’s what the president’s seeking to do,” Kerry said.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) asked Kerry, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel if they could guarantee the outcome of a U.S. military operation against Syria.

“Everything I read from your summary indicated to me that there is absolutely no guarantee of a lasting peace in Syria or in the region and nor that they are American friendly after we have a gargantuan outlay of American money, resources, and maybe American blood and even lives if they retaliate. Absolutely no guarantee. Would you say that’s a fair statement?” Weber asked Dempsey.

“I just would remind you the answer to the letter that I sent to Rep. Engle was related to the question that I received, which was what would it take to tip the balance in favor of the opposition and lead to the overthrow of the Assad regime. So I want to make sure we’re separate from what we’re doing here today,” Dempsey responded.

Weber posed the question to Hagel instead.

“Would you say that’s a fair statement – no guarantee of an outcome on the other end … of a stable, of peace in Syria, peace in the region and whoever comes out on the other side will be our friends. No guarantee?” Weber asked Hagel.

“But that’s not the stated objective of what we’re talking about,” Hagel responded.

“But that’s not my question, sir. My question was would you guarantee that after trying to establish the objective that you’re seeking to establish, we still do not have a guarantee on the other end of a stable Syria, a stable region, and whoever comes out on the other side would be our friends,” Weber asked Hagel.

Hagel said he wouldn’t guarantee anything.

“I wouldn’t guarantee anything,” Hagel said. “This is as I believe the last three hours has been very clear about, this is unpredictable. It’s complicated. It’s dangerous. There are many interests that are surging through the Middle East, in particular Syria. What we’re thinking through diplomatically, militarily, international coalition, all the other factors that we’ve talked about today are—

“We get to one thing, and that’s a diplomatic settlement,” Hagel continued.

Weber turned to Kerry. “Secretary, your response, please.”

“I can’t give you a guarantee of the outcome of Syria as a whole, but I can give you a guarantee that the United States of America can make it clear to Assad that it’s going to cost him to use chemical weapons, and we can have an impact on deterring and degrading his capacity. That guarantee is what I can give you, and that’s what the president’s seeking to do,” Kerry told Weber.

Weber asked Kerry “at what price” would that objective be achieved.

“Not at the price that you described, absolutely not at the price that you described,” Kerry said.

If U.S. credibility was at stake, Weber said, “let there be no mistake.”

If anyone were to attack the U.S., Congress would “authorize the full force and fury of our very capable military,” Weber said.

“Not everything comes down in terms of threat or a potential future threat to our country to somebody attacking us,” Kerry said. “Lots of things we do, we do in preparation and as a matter of deterrence.

“We also do it in the context on occasion, as we did in Bosnia, to make peace, to have a settlement, to save lives. That’s what we achieved,” he added.

“And so we have achieved that previously, and I believe in the long run it is vital to the United States to assert this principle and to begin to move this troubled part of the world in a different direction. That’s what we’re working on,” Kerry concluded.

As the House Foreign Relations Committee continued to debate U.S. military intervention in Syria, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10 to seven to authorize force in Syria. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.