Syria Strike Plan Faces Imminent Congressional Review

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 3, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

U.S. law­makers on key na­tion­al se­cur­ity com­mit­tees rushed back to Wash­ing­ton to start hear­ings on Tues­day on Pres­id­ent Obama’s plan to strike Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment tar­gets fol­low­ing al­leg­a­tions that nerve gas at­tacks late last month killed more than 1,400 people in outly­ing Dam­as­cus neigh­bor­hoods held by en­emies of Bashar As­sad’s re­gime, the New York Times re­por­ted.

Pres­id­ent Obama on Tues­day morn­ing voiced a firm be­lief that Con­gress would ul­ti­mately back a meas­ure per­mit­ting the use of armed force against Syr­ia, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted. He told re­port­ers dur­ing a meet­ing with con­gres­sion­al lead­ers that he could ac­cept le­gis­lat­ive al­ter­a­tions to his pro­posed lan­guage for al­low­ing an at­tack.

The Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee is set to re­ceive testi­mony on Tues­day from De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel, Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, the Times re­por­ted. Five seni­or White House na­tion­al se­cur­ity of­fi­cials on Monday spoke with 127 House Demo­crats in a single tele­phone ex­change, and a bi­par­tis­an group of 83 le­gis­lat­ors took part in a closed-door meet­ing on Sunday.

“The de­bate is shift­ing away from ‘Did [As­sad] use chem­ic­al weapons?’ to ‘What should be done about it?’” Rep­res­ent­at­ive Adam Schiff (D-Cal­if.), a mem­ber of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, told the Times after Monday’s ses­sion.

“The United States will not go it alone,” Kerry re­portedly said in the tele­phone ex­change, ad­dress­ing con­cerns that a po­ten­tial U.S. mil­it­ary move against Syr­ia would lack ad­equate back­ing from oth­er gov­ern­ments.

Ma­jor­ity and minor­ity lead­ers from the de­fense, for­eign re­la­tions and in­tel­li­gence pan­els of both cham­bers could meet on Tues­day with Obama at the White House in re­sponse to an in­vit­a­tion from the pres­id­ent.

Mean­while, an ini­tial team of 50 CIA-backed rebel op­er­at­ives has be­gun mov­ing in­to Syr­i­an ter­rit­ory, Obama re­portedly said in a meet­ing with Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ors John Mc­Cain (Ar­iz.) and Lind­sey Gra­ham (S.C.). Still, a fear of in­ad­vert­ently arm­ing ex­trem­ist op­pos­i­tion ele­ments has con­tin­ued to hold off U.S. weapons de­liv­er­ies ini­tially au­thor­ized for res­ist­ance forces in June, the Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted on Monday.

U.S. na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­viser Susan Rice is ex­pec­ted to fur­ther dis­cuss the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Syr­ia plan­ning with Mc­Cain and Gra­ham, the law­makers told the Times.

Else­where, a West­ern-backed Syr­i­an rebel group on Tues­day said a med­ic­al spe­cial­ist has entered Tur­key with re­cords link­ing As­sad’s re­gime to an al­leged March 19 chem­ic­al strike in the vil­lage of Khan al-As­sal near Aleppo, Re­u­ters re­por­ted. As­sad’s gov­ern­ment and the res­ist­ance have each blamed the oth­er side for the in­cid­ent.

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