The image John Kerry WON’T want you to see: U.S. Secretary of State pictured dining with Assad and his wife at Damascus restaurant before war broke out in Syria
- Kerry pictured around a small table with his wife and the Assads in 2009
- Assad and Kerry lean in towards each other, deep in conversation
- Picture taken in February 2009 when Kerry led a delegation to Syria
- Kerry yesterday compared Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein
By ANTHONY BOND
PUBLISHED: 07:53 EST, 2 September 2013 | UPDATED: 11:29 EST, 2 September 2013
This astonishing photograph shows U.S Secretary of State John Kerry having a cosy and intimate dinner with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Kerry – who compared Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein yesterday – is pictured around a small table with his wife and the Assads in 2009.
Assad and Kerry – who was then a senator for Massachusetts – lean in towards each other and appear deep in conversation as their wives look on.
A waiter is pictured at their side with a tray of green drinks – which are believed to be lemon and crushed mint.
The picture is believed to have been taken in February 2009 in the Naranj restaurant in Damascus when Kerry led a delegation to Syria to discuss ideas and talk about the way forward for peace in the region.
Despite President Barack Obama taking a step back from his threat to launch an attack by putting a vote in Congress, his Secretary of State has been outspoken about the dangers posed by the Syrian regime.
He said that Assad ‘has now joined the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein’ in deploying chemical weapons against his population.
He said on Sunday that the U.S. now has evidence that sarin nerve gas was used in Syria and that ‘the case gets stronger by the day’ for a military attack.
SEVEN MILLION SYRIANS DISPLACED
The head of the U.N. refugee agency in Syria says seven million Syrians, or almost one-third of the population, have been displaced by the country’s civil war.
Tarik Kurdi said that five million of the displaced are still in Syria while about 2 million have fled to neighboring countries.
He says two million children are among those directly affected by the war.
Kurdi says U.N. assistance has been a ‘drop in the sea of humanitarian need’ and that the funding gap is ‘very, very wide.’ He says international donors have sent less than one-third of the money needed to help those displaced by the war.
More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted in 2011.
Kerry has said he is confident that Congress will give Obama its backing for an attack against Syria, but the former Massachusetts senator also said the president has authority to act on his own if Congress doesn’t give its approval.
Speaking today, Senator John McCain said President Bashar Assad will be ‘euphoric’ about Obama’s decision to wait for Congress over Syria.
One of the loudest critics of the administration’s handling of Syria, McCain criticised Obama in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.
Referring to Obama’s famous remark when he said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a red line, McCain said: ‘He didn’t say, “It’s a red line – and by the way I’m going to have to seek the approval of Congress.”
He said it was a red line, and that the United States of America would act.
‘And that’s a big difference, and that’s one of the reasons why this is so problematic.’
The Arizona Republican, who Obama beat for the presidency in 2008, said the President asked him to come to the White House specifically to discuss Syria.
Horrific: Hundreds died in the alleged chemical attacks, including many women and children
Awful: Secretary of State John Kerry said images like these contributed to the U.S. assessment that chemical weapons were used in Syria
Obama is hoping one of Congress’s most intractable foreign policy hawks will help sell the idea of a U.S. military intervention in Syria to a nation deeply scarred by more than a decade of war.
Having announced over the weekend that he will seek congressional approval for military strikes against the Assad regime, the Obama administration is now trying to rally support among Americans and their congressmen and senators.
Today’s meeting with McCain is meant to address concerns of those who feel Obama isn’t doing enough to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for the chemical weapons attack.
On the other side of the spectrum, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers don’t want to see military action at all.
Obama’s turnabout on Syria sets the stage for the biggest foreign policy vote in Congress since the Iraq war.
Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the information the U.S. showed Moscow trying to prove that the Syrian regime was behind an alleged chemical weapons attack is ‘absolutely unconvincing.’
Lavrov said today ‘there was nothing specific’ in the evidence presented by Washington: ‘no geographic coordinates, no names, no proof that the tests were carried out by the professionals.’ He did not say what tests he was referring to.
Lavrov say U.S. officials said they cannot share with them all the evidence because some of it is classified.
He did not describe the tests further.
Lavrov brushed aside Western evidence of an alleged Syrian regime role. Russia, along with China and Iran, has staunchly backed Assad throughout the conflict.
‘What our American, British and French partners showed us in the past and have showed just recently is absolutely unconvincing,’ Lavrov said at Russia’s top diplomatic school.
‘And when you ask for more detailed proof they say all of this is classified so we cannot show this to you.’
U.N. chemical inspectors toured the stricken areas last week, collecting biological and soil samples, but it is not clear when the will present their findings.
The Syria conflict erupted in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad that quickly transformed into a civil war.
More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict.