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Syria war plan advances in Senate, pushes Obama to help rebels
“I worry we have now committed ourselves to a level of support that will have to endure after the fall of Bashar al-Assad,” he said.
In the House, the administration was facing a tough audience in the Foreign Affairs Committee.
While some committee members expressed support or opposition, many more seemed to struggle with how to explain the administration’s policy to their constituents. Polls show far more voters disapprove of strikes than back them.
Rep. Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican who is on the committee but was traveling in the Middle East, released a statement saying the administration still lacks the votes to win approval in the House and he expects the lobbying to grow more intense in the next week.
“As it stands currently, President Obama does not have the votes to approve military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” he said.
The Obama administration says troops loyal to Mr. Assad used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 people, including more than 400 children, in attacks on a Damascus suburb Aug. 21.
Foreign leaders have said the death toll was lower. Syrian officials dispute the claim that they deployed chemical weapons and suggested the rebels used them to try to draw the U.S. into the war.
But members of Congress who attended classified intelligence briefings say the American case is true well beyond a reasonable doubt.
Instead, the conversation on Capitol Hill centers around whether strikes are an appropriate response to chemical weapons use; whether they will be effective; whether they invite further retaliation and risk an escalation; and whether an attack would force the U.S. deeper into the civil war.
“The president promises a military operation in Syria of limited scope and duration, but the Assad regime would have a say in what happens next,” said Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. “That would be particularly true as President Obama isn’t aiming to change the situation on the ground. What are the chances of escalation? Are different scenarios accounted for? If our credibility is on the line now, as is argued, what about if Assad retaliates?”
Analysts said the Senate language, which tries to limit Mr. Obama to act within 90 day, doesn’t slam the door shut if the president wants the military to stay longer — particularly if it is an operation similar to his bombing of Libya two years ago, when he said he didn’t need congressional permission because those weren’t “hostilities.”
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