Obama administration in full lobbying mode to get support for military strike in Syria
Nato said yesterday it would not get involved in military conflict in Syria
US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham after meeting with US President Barack Obama on possible military action against Syria. Photograph: Mike Theiler/Reuters.
US secretary of state John Kerry and secretary of defence Chuck Hagel will appeal at an influential Senate panel hearing today for military action against Syria over last month’s chemical weapons attack.
The two men will make the case for intervention against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to support President Barack Obama’s request that Congress authorise US strikes against Syria.
In a frenzy of lobbying efforts by the Obama administration to secure Congressional support, Mr Kerry will address another prominent committee of domestic lawmakers tomorrow when he speaks to foreign relations committee in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber on Capitol Hill.
The White House has warned members of Congress in private briefings that their failure to back Mr Obama in the use of “limited” military action, expected to be targeted missile strikes, against Assad’s forces over the August 21st attacks will encourage chemical weapons use by Iran and others.
The president, who travels later this week to Sweden and Russia where he will attend a G20 meeting, will speak today with members of key Senate and House policy committees about the case for action against Syria ahead of Congress returning from its summer break next Monday for a vote.
The flurry of activity follows Mr Obama’s surprise decision on Saturday to seek Congressional support for military action against the Assad regime, despite saying that he has the authority to decide alone.
Mr Obama yesterday met Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham whose support is seen as crucial to convincing others in the Senate that military action against Assad is the right course.
After the meeting, Mr McCain, who along with Mr Graham wants more severe action and Mr Assad’s removal from power, said that the administration’s plan was “encouraging”, but he called for Mr Obama to “articulate” a plan to “degrade” Mr Assad’s capabilities and to “upgrade” the Free Syrian Army.
“The president, I think, made sense in a lot of things in what he had to say, but we are a long way from achieving what I believe would be a most effective strategy,” said Mr McCain.
He warned that Congress voting against Mr Obama’s plan would be “catastrophic” for the US.
Referring to appeasement shown to the Nazi Germany and their allies, Mr McCain said the US “paid a horrible price of not paying attention” to what happened in Czechoslovakia, Abyssinia and China. “We have to pay attention to this region and we have to bring Bashar al-Assad down,” he said.
Mr Kerry spoke with 127 Democratic members of the House on a call, describing the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against a Damascus suburb as being beyond a reasonable doubt, CNN reported.
Nato said yesterday it would not get involved in military conflict in Syria, despite its secretary general’s belief that Mr Assad was behind last month’s attack.
“It’s for individual allies to decide how they will respond,” Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels. Nato’s reluctance to intervene in the Syrian conflict reflects divisions among its 28 members on how to respond to the crisis.
“I can tell you personally I am convinced, not only that a chemical attack has taken place . . . but I am also convinced that the Syrian regime is responsible,” said Mr Rasmussen.
Britain ruled out a second parliamentary vote on intervention in Syria, despite calls from politicians such as former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown and London mayor Boris Johnson to hold a further vote in the event of new evidence regarding the use of chemical weapons emerging.
A BBC poll yesterday found that 71 per cent of voters supported MPs’ decision not to participate in an international military response in Syria.