Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the video posted by the New York Times on Thursday that appeared to show Syrian rebel fighters summarily executing regime soldiers, saying that the men in the videos are another reason why Congress needs to authorize President Obama to strike against Syria.
“I guarantee you if we turn our backs today, the picture we all saw in the paper today and the media of those people shot, that will take place more because more extremists will be attracted to this,” Kerry said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
“Because they will be funded as the only alternative in order to take on Assad,” he warned.
Kerry has come under fire for his claims during congressional hearings this week that the administration estimates only “15 to 25 percent” of the estimated 70,000 to 100,000 rebel fighters are extremists, with the majority of the opposition being made up of moderates. But he defended the assertion, telling Hayes that the administration knows there are about 11 really bad opposition groups — so-called opposition,” he said.
“They are fighting Assad. They are not part of the opposition that is being supported by our friends and ourselves,” Kerry added.
Kerry said the moderate opposition, which the U.S. supports, has condemned the video. He also gave some insight into the vetting process the U.S. is using to make sure none of the military aid or arms America is giving is going to extremists.
“We are busy separating the support we are giving from any possibility of that support going to these guys,” he said, adding that it’s a “very careful” vetting process that includes Turkey and Jordan.
Kerry repeated the administration’s position that the action in Syria is not comparable to Iraq, Afghanistan or even Libya, and that any strikes would be punitive and limited to deterring Assad from launching anymore chemical weapons attacks. Kerry said the administration believes that Assad will not strike back, citing Syria’s inaction against previous Israeli military strikes as a barometer for how the regime will respond.
He also repeated the administration’s position that America’s actions in Syria will have a direct effect of deterrence to Iran, Hezbollah, North Korea and other rogue actors. He specifically mentioned the danger regional U.S. allies such as Jordan and Israel will face with an emboldened Iran if a resolution doesn’t pass. “Iran will read this and they could read it in the wrong way,” he said
On the political front, Kerry, a military veteran and former senator, was dismissive of the criticism being thrown at him from some former Bush administration officials who were involved in the Iraq war, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Kerry questioned their credibility.
“It just doesn’t make a difference to me because they’re so discredited by their own judgments,” he said, adding that he trusts the judgment of people he respects.