JOHN KERRY: Chuck and I just talked with Assad, sir. Says he appreciates the pause but his military would find it easier to limit damage if they knew the exact date of a strike. He promised he wouldn’t use chemical weapons in the interim if we kept him informed.
OBAMA: Cheeky SOB. What did you tell him?
KERRY: That no one could predict how long the debate in Congress would last.
OBAMA: Have NSA establish a secure link between Reid’s office and Assad’s Command Center. Harry will liaise with them.
HAGEL: Um, Assad also wants a commitment that you will not hit Syria if Congress refuses authorization. Argued the War Powers Act of 1974 explicitly prohibits a president from using military force on his own authority in a situation like this.
OBAMA: I hope you told him he could take a flying leap off . . .
KERRY: Appearances matter, sir. You’ve promised to listen to what everyone has to say on the matter. Everyone. Assad asked that Damascus University Professor Firas Sabeen, a respected expert on our Constitution, be allowed to address Congress on the merits of our case for action against his country. I agreed.
OBAMA: Is that it? Is there anything more that murdering . . . ?
KERRY: Just one more thing, sir. A threat. Assad knows our cyber warfare capability is nothing short of awesome. He fears it more than a few Tomahawks.
HAGEL: So he’s drawn a bright red line: said cyber-attacks on Syria would constitute a crime against humanity, that no matter how carefully we target his military, hospital computers would go down, resulting in preemies dying in their incubators, dialysis patients succumbing, and so on.
OBAMA: I suppose he’d hire Ramsey Clark, take it to The Hague.
KERRY: Yes sir. We’d lose.