Hillary Clinton: Syria's chemical weapon use ‘demands a response’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the first time Monday publicly voiced her support for President Obama’s proposed strike against Syria. 

Clinton said she met with the president earlier in the day, and in her speech at a Wildlife Trafficking Forum used terms the White House has been using in its attempt to galvanize support for a military strike.

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Clinton said that Syrian President Bashar Assad has “violated a norm at the heart of our global order,” and argued that his actions “demand a response.”

“The international community cannot ignore the ongoing threat from the Assad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons,” Clinton said. “This is about protecting the Syrian people and our friends in the region.”

Clinton also seemed to endorse an emerging option for Assad to avert a U.S. strike.

“If the regime immediately surrenders its stockpiles to international control…that would be an important step, but this cannot be another delay or obstruction,” she said.

Earlier on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry tentatively floated the idea that if Assad turned his chemical weapons over within the next week, that it could potentially stop U.S. plans to strike.

However, the State Department then issued a statement saying Kerry’s comments were not an ultimatum, but rather, were rhetorical and that there was no expectation that Assad would ever consider such a move.

But shortly after, Assad’s allies in Russia shocked the international community when Moscow announced it would pressure Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons. Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Muallem, said his country welcomed Russia's proposal.

Still, Clinton seemed dubious that Assad would agree to such a measure, and said his regime and the Russians must be held accountable to ensure that it wasn’t a gambit designed to delay military action by the U.S.

Clinton lauded the Obama administration for its strong push to hold Syria accountable for its use of chemical weapons.

“This discussion that is taking place today … only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the U.S. to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria like Russia,” she said.

Clinton urged the international community to get on board with the U.S. and to hold Syria accountable. “The broader conflict in Syria is a threat to regional stability and security to our allies and partners, as well as a humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.

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