Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryTwenty-four countries say global net-zero goal will fuel inequality Queen Elizabeth recognizes Kerry from video message: 'I saw you on the telly' Fossil fuel production must be cut in half to control global warming: study MORE maintained Tuesday that President Obama "never retreated from his red line" in Syria, when he pledged to retaliate against Bashar Assad's regime if it used chemical weapons.
Obama issued the warning in 2012, but stalled after Assad crossed the red line by using chemical weapons a year later.
"President Obama never retreated from his red line. He never changed his mind about his readiness to bomb Assad to make it clear you don’t use chemical weapons — never. There’s a mythology that’s grown up around this," Kerry said during an event in Washington, D.C., hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Kerry said that at the time, the Obama administration decided it was appropriate to request congressional approval for the planned retaliation strikes against Syrian government forces.
"And that’s the best way, if you’re going to use force, to go to use it — is have the imprint of Congress supporting you," Kerry said.
"In the meantime, I was asked a question at a press conference in London, 'Is there any way that Assad could avoid being bombed?' And I said, 'Yes, he could get all the chemical weapons out of the country,'" he added.
According to Kerry, his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, then called him to voice support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons.
"I get a call from Lavrov an hour and a half later saying, 'That’s a great idea. We should be pursuing that. Why don’t we sit down and talk and see if we can get that done?' And within days, we got it done," Kerry said.
Kerry also pointed out that the chemical weapons agreement could have been a better solution to the crisis, given the possibility that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could have gained control of Assad's weapons if they were not surrendered.
"Now, having said everything I just said, I will readily acknowledge that this notion that the president didn’t follow through took hold and it has cost us, and I acknowledge, yes, it became a perception that became a sort of diplomatic reality and it fed this notion that the administration wasn’t there to support its ally, but it’s just not accurate," Kerry added.