In their latest push for U.S. military involvement in the Syrian conflict, three of the most hawkish Senators today introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. help arm the Syrian rebels through Arab allies. Suggesting support for regional efforts to arm the opposition, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) called for condemnation of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who for more than a year has cracked down with the full force of his military against anti-government demonstrators and rebels.
ABC News described the Senators’ bill:
The resolution supports calls by Arab leaders to provide the Syrian people with weapons and other material support and calls on President Obama to work closely with regional partners to “implement these efforts effectively.”
At a press conference, Lieberman said:
We in the United States have both a moral and strategic reason to support their efforts by at least giving them the means with which to defend themselves.
The Hill reports that the McCain-Graham-Lieberman resolution is likely to be merged with another by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) calling for a U.S. government report examining the rebels and gleaning information about its different factions. Other aspects of the resolutions also overlap. The Hill went on to expand on the call to support the Syrian opposition’s self-defense:
That support would likely come in the form of weapons and ammunition for anti-Assad forces. McCain declined to comment on what specific weapons could shipped to rebel troops in the country.
But the Arizona Republicans said those arms could be funneled through the same lines that the “non-lethal” supplies being sent to Syria by the U.S. and Turkey.
The Hill also noted that McCain, Lieberman and Graham did not call in their resolution for airstrikes against Syria. Earlier this month, McCain voiced support for U.S. air strikes against Assad’s regime aimed at helping the rebels topple it. Lieberman and Graham almost immediately followed McCain’s lead.
But those sorts of actions are deeply unpopular among Americans. A Fox News poll released on March 15 said 68 percent of those surveyed opposed air strikes aimed at overthrowing the country, and only 19 percent supported such a strategy. A slim majority opposed and 37 supported air strikes narrowly limited to protecting anti-government rebels. Even the U.S. arming the rebels was unpopular: 64 percent of respondents opposed it, with a quarter of them supporting it.
According to the Hill, “Lieberman said it was decided to exclude the airstrikes demand from the resolution, fearing it would sap bipartisan support for the legislation among rank-and-file senators.”