Congressmen Call For U.S. Military Response To Alleged Chemical Weapons Use In Syria

CREDIT: Bassam Khabieh / Reuters

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Two top lawmakers on the House and Senate foreign relations committees said on Sunday that the United States should take some kind of military action against Syria in response to allegations that forces allied with President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against rebel held positions that resulted in the deaths of thousands, including women and children.

“This is not something where opposition forces have contrived something,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) on Fox News Sunday. “I hope the president, as soon as we get back to Washington will ask for authorization from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed, but said President Obama doesn’t need Congress’s approval “initially.”

“I just think that we have to move and we have to move quickly,” Engel said. “I do agree with Senator Corker that Congress needs to be involved but perhaps not initially. Perhaps the president could start and then Congress needs to resolve it and ascend to it.”

According to the New York Times, Doctors Without Borders said on Saturday that “medical centers it supported near the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus received more than 3,000 patients showing symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic nerve agents on the morning of the reported attack.”

A senior Obama administration official told the Associated Press that there is “very little doubt” that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. President Obama has met with his national security team and talked with key allies to discuss the way forward. Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to a British government spokesman, agreed in a recent telephone conversation “that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community and both have tasked officials to examine all the options.”

The AP reported on Sunday that the Syrian government has reached an agreement with a United Nations chemical weapons expert investigative team currently in the country to visit the site of last week’s alleged attack.

Corker and Engel didn’t specify what kind of military action the U.S. should take. While Corker only referred to “surgical” operations, he said “there are a number of things we can do.”

“I certainly would do cruise missile strikes. … We could even destroy the Syrian air force if we wanted to,” Engel said. “I just think that we have to move and we have to move quickly.”

However, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 60 percent of Americans don’t want the United States to get involved militarily in Syria. The results, Reuters says, “suggest that if Obama decides to undertake military action against Assad’s regime, he will do so in the face of steady opposition from an American public wary after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”