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.
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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.
During a passionate speech in Washington last Friday, he also called Assad a ‘thug and murderer’ and urged the world to act as he warned ‘history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’.
The U.S. administration put the Syrian chemical weapons death toll on the outskirts of Damascus at 1,429 people – far more than previous estimates – including more than 400 children.
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.
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While Kerry stopped short of saying Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refuse to authorise force, he did say that ‘we are not going to lose this vote.’
Kerry said Obama has the right to take action against Syria, with or without Congress’ approval. But he stopped short of saying Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refuse to authorize force.
Congress is scheduled to return from a summer break on September 9.