Obama wins backing for Syria strike from key congressmen
ReutersU.S. President Barack Obama won the backing of key figures in the U.S. Congress, including Republicans, in his call for limited U.S. strikes on Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.
September 5, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they reached an agreement on a draft authorization for the use of military force in Syria, paving the way for a vote by the committee on Wednesday. However, the draft is much narrower than the request made by Obama and includes a provision barring the use of U.S. troops on the ground.
Obama said on Tuesday the United States also has a broader plan to help rebels defeat Assad's forces.
“What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad's capabilities,” Obama said. “At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”
Obama met congressional leaders at the White House to urge a prompt decision and assure them it did not mean another long war like Iraq or Afghanistan.
John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both pledged their support for military action after the meeting.
Votes are expected to be held in the Senate and House next week, with the Republican-led House presenting the tougher challenge for Obama.
The House leadership has indicated the votes will be “conscience votes,” meaning they will not seek to influence members' votes on party lines.
“I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action,” Boehner told reporters.
'My credibility is not on the line'
Among other provisions, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee draft, which was obtained by Reuters, sets a 60-day limit on U.S. military action in Syria, with a possibility of a single 30-day extension subject to conditions.
Obama said on Wednesday the credibility of the U.S. Congress was on the line in the need to uphold a ban on chemical weapons and to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack.
“My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line,” Obama told a news conference in Sweden.
“America and Congress' credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” Obama added.