He also said Congress has no right to authorize the use of force against Syria without a U.N. Security Council resolution and that doing so would be an “act of aggression,” Reuters news agency reported.
Putin accused Secretary of State John F. Kerry of “lying” to Congress about the role of al-Qaeda in the Syrian civil war. In a Kremlin meeting of his human rights council, he said of administration officials at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday: “They lie beautifully, of course. . . . A congressman asks Mr Kerry: ‘Is al-Qaeda there?’ He says: ‘No, I am telling you responsibly that it is not.’ ” Putin continued, according to Reuters: “Al-Qaeda units are the main military echelon, and they know this. It was unpleasant and surprising for me. . . . We proceed from the assumption that they are decent people. But he is lying and knows he is lying. It’s sad.”
Asked during the hearing whether it was “basically true” that the Syrian opposition has become more infiltrated by al-Qaeda, Kerry said: “No, that is actually basically not true. It’s basically incorrect.”
Kerry returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to brief senators in secret and to testify in a public hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Kerry said in the House hearing that more nations are supporting a U.S. strike against Syria than the Pentagon says are needed.
He warned that if Congress fails to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force, the ability of the moderate Syrian opposition to restrain extremists will “dissipate immediately,” resulting in “more extremism and greater problems down the road.”
Later, Kerry disputed an assertion by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) that “radical Islamists” now make up the “majority” of the Syrian rebel forces. Kerry said there are 70,000 to 100,000 “oppositionists” in Syria and that 15 to 25 percent might belong to groups deemed to be “bad guys” among the rebel forces.
“There is a real, moderate opposition that exists,” Kerry said.
As he testified, protesters from the antiwar group Code Pink held up red-stained hands in the audience behind Kerry in silent opposition to a U.S. strike.
Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, said proposed use-of-force resolutions in the House are “looking at a short time frame” for U.S. action, as on the Senate side.