By Elise Labott
Last Thursday night, John Kerry got a call from the White House. He had already spoken out Monday about what he said was “undeniable” evidence Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gassed his people. Now he was being asked to make a speech Friday afternoon laying out the case the United States had against the Assad regime and the importance of taking action to prevent him from doing it again.
In forceful and emotional remarks, drafted overnight by his staff and President Obama’s White House aides, Kerry laid out the U.S. intelligence against Assad and made the case for urgent U.S. action.
“The primary question is really no longer: What do we know,” Kerry said. “The question is: What are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going to do about it?”
His strong and, by most accounts, convincing indictment of Assad sounded so much like a case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria that the world was surprised when Obama hit the pause button the following day. In an address to the nation from the White House Rose Garden, the president explained his decision to seek congressional authorization for military strikes against Syria.
By CNN's Ashley Killough
Blood and hair samples from eastern Damascus, Syria, have "tested positive for signatures of sarin" gas, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday, arguing that with "each day that goes by, this case is even stronger."
Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. obtained the samples "independently" through an "appropriate chain of custody," giving no indication the results came from the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors.
By Jill Dougherty
As Secretary of State John Kerry embraced Israeli Justice Minister Tsipi Livini and warmly shook hands with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat at the State Department on Tuesday there was a deja-vu moment.
A flashback to September 1993 when President Bill Clinton embraced Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the South Lawn of the White House.
This is just the beginning of a revived peace process that could easily crumble, as Clinton’s Oslo accords did and Kerry admitted: “I know the path is difficult. There is no shortage of passionate skeptics.”
The secretary of state, however, did succeed in getting two representatives together at the State Department to work out details of where this new push for peace is headed.
CNN's Elise Labott interviewed Secretary of State John Kerry Monday in India about U.S. efforts to find Edward Snowden after he fled Hong Kong. She asked him whether China's failure to stop him from fleeing was payback after Snowden leaked information about U.S. surveillance activities on China.
By Jill Dougherty
As the Obama administration debates further help for besieged Syrian opposition fighters, it is moving to aid Syrian civilians in opposition-controlled areas in rebuilding shattered towns and villages.
U.S. officials announced Wednesday they are easing economic sanctions on Syria, allowing the importation of equipment and technology into liberated areas of Syria. The steps are being coordinated through the Departments of State, Commerce, and Treasury.
Secretary of State John Kerry signed a limited waiver of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 that authorizes the export , subject to case-by-case review, of certain U.S. items.
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday, accusing him of soliciting help from Iran and its fighters on the ground in Syria as well as fighters from Hezbollah.
"A designated terrorist organization has now crossed over from Lebanon into Syria and is actively engaged in the fighting," Kerry said at a State Department press availability about the Syrian civil war.
Al-Assad, he said, is willing to use Scud missiles against civilians and noted an "extraordinary number" of people are trapped in the besieged rebel stronghold of Qusair near the Lebanese border.
"He will not allow humanitarian aid to go in until the military has finished what (it) intends to do," Kerry said.
"So I think the world is seeing the actions of a person who has lost touch with any reality except his own and is willing to wreak any kind of punishment on his own - the people of his country - simply so that he can maintain power," he said.
By Jill Dougherty
Meeting in Rome with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday that the United States would provide an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria, bringing the total amount of aid to $510 million.
Kerry also said that he is working to bring all parties together to create a transitional government and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be part of that government.
Jordan, which is being inundated by a wave of Syrian refugees, will receive nearly $43 million, which will support United Nations humanitarian programs in the region.
By Dan Merica
Top Republicans and witnesses ripped the Obama administration's response to last year's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, calling key executive branch officials unresponsive in the critical hours after the assault and uncooperative in the investigations that followed.
Our goal "is to get answers because their families (of the victims) deserve answers," said California Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which heard from State Department "whistleblowers" at a hearing on Wednesday.
"The administration, however, has not been cooperative and unfortunately our (Democratic House) minority has mostly sat silent," he said.
Issa spoke prior to testimony from Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya; Mark Thompson, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; and Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya.
Follow CNN's live blog of the hearing here.
By Elise Labott
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It was just after 1 a.m. in Istanbul when John Kerry emerged from the Friends of Syria meeting, flanked by Turkey's foreign minister, Qatar's prime minister and Moaz al-Khatib, leader of Syria's political opposition.
The meeting between the Syrian opposition and foreign ministers from 11 of Syria's main backers ran hours past the original deadline. The gathering was intended to get the opposition and international community on the same page about the pace and scope of aid, but it devolved into an extended argument about what one diplomat called "competing agendas" among the supporters.
Kerry took the reins in negotiating the communique, line by line, not letting anyone leave the room until it was finished. In the statement, the group agreed to channel all military assistance through the military council of the U.S.-backed Syrian National Coalition, a significant stab in curbing the escalating influence of al Qaeda-linked groups that have joined the effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry also pushed the opposition to make strong and verifiable commitments to reject extremism and adhere to pluralism and human rights.
After taking questions from the press, Kerry went back into a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and al-Khatib, returning to his hotel well past 3 a.m.
Read the full story on cnn.com/politics.
By CNN's Mary Grace Lucas
A NATO alliance where member nations are hamstrung by political and economic difficulties may be a militarily weakened one, former Secy. of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday night.
"NATO is turning into a two-tiered alliance with shrinking percentage of members willing – and able – to pay the price and bear the burdens of common defense," Clinton said. "Even in these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to let the greatest alliance in history slide into military irrelevance."
Clinton was speaking at an annual Atlantic Council awards dinner in Washington where both she and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen were honored with Distinguished Leadership awards.
Clinton praised Rasmussen roundly for his work. But she didn’t shy away from the idea that NATO nations needed to think ahead about a more evenly-shared responsibility when it comes to security and readiness.