Kerry: U.S. can't rush into Syrian intervention

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., talks to reporters Nov. 21, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., talks to reporters Nov. 21, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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(CBS News) Something must be done about the Syrian government's ongoing violence against its own people, but the U.S. "can't just jump up one morning and say, 'OK, let's go drop some bombs on Syrian tanks," Sen. John Kerry said Thursday.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning," the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pushed back against colleagues, notably Sen. John McCain, who has advocated for a U.S.-led military intervention.

"I'm very sympathetic with John McCain's passion about this. I think we all share a sense of deep frustration. Nobody wants to be sitting on the sidelines watching people be killed against the tyrannical efforts of the military and a small governing fleet, which is what it's reduced to now," the Massachusetts senator said.

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The United Nations estimates more than 7,500 people have been killed in the nearly year-long uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime. Opposition activists put that figure at more than 8,000.

Testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wouldn't rule out eventual military intervention, but warned against unilateral action, stressing instead the Obama administration's focus on a diplomatic solution.

Kerry echoed the administration position, saying the U.S. needed to get a better understanding of the Syrian opposition and noting that Syria's sophisticated air defenses and stronger military make an intervention more difficult than the NATO-led operation against Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.

Kerry also said he thought China and Russia had given Assad a "get-out-of-jail-free card" when they vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding the Syrian president step down, but he expressed hope of persuading those two nations to join international efforts to quell the violence.

Above, watch John Kerry give his perspective on the violence in Syria and the issue of Iran in the presidential race.