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Difference between revisions of "United States involvement in Syria"

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*'''September 6, 2013''': Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduces resolution to the Senate.<ref>[ ''Washington Post'', "Reid formally introduces Syria resolution", accessed September 6, 2013]</ref>
==U.S. Senate==
==U.S. Senate==

Revision as of 14:15, 6 September 2013

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In August 2012, President Obama said the "red line" for U.S. involvement in Syria was the use of chemical or biological weapons.[1] In April 2013, reports surfaced that Syria had used chemical weapons twice in their civil war, but it was not enough for the U.S. to intervene. In June 2013, President Obama authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels following more reports of small scale chemical weapon attacks.[1]

On August 21, 2013, the Syrian government was accused of a chemical weapons attack on a town in the suburbs of Damascus, killing thousands, including women and children.[1] On September 3, 2013, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support President Obama's decision to use military force to intervene in the Syrian conflict.[2] The group met with the House Foreign Affairs Committee on September 5.[3]

Congressional timeline

  • September 1, 2013: Several top U.S. government officials hold classified briefing and several senators are in attendence.[4]
  • September 3, 2013: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and ranking member Bob Corker (R-TN) draft a compromise resolution to be debated in the hearing the next day.[5]
  • September 3, 2013: The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations holds briefing with Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.[5]
  • September 4, 2013: John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) draft an amendment adding language stating the policy of the United States to pursue a reversal of the momentum on the ground in Syria as a means to encourage a political solution between the regime and the opposition.[5]
  • September 4, 2013: United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations votes 10-7 in favor of resolution that sets a 60-day limit on any engagement in Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, and bars the use of U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations.[6]
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Syria Resolution
Senator Party Vote
Chris Coons Democratic Voted "Yes"
Bob Corker Republican Voted "Yes"
Richard Durbin Democratic Voted "Yes"
Jeff Flake Republican Voted "Yes"
Tim Kaine Democratic Voted "Yes"
John McCain Republican Voted "Yes"
Bob Menendez Democratic Voted "Yes"
Jeanne Shaheen Democratic Voted "Yes"
Barbara Boxer Democratic Voted "Yes"
Ben Cardin Democratic Voted "Yes"
John Barrasso Republican Voted "No"
Ron Johnson Republican Voted "No"
Chris Murphy Democratic Voted "No"
Rand Paul Republican Voted "No"
James Risch Republican Voted "No"
Marco Rubio Republican Voted "No"
Tom Udall Democratic Voted "No"
Ed Markey Democratic Neutral/Abstain
  • September 6, 2013: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduces resolution to the Senate.[7]

U.S. Senate

Notable Support


August 26, 2013: Corker stated that U.S. involvement in Syria was "imminent" and that "it's up to us to intervene."[8]

John McCain on Syria, Sept. 3, 2013
September 2, 2013: McCain said the following about use-of-force in Syria after meeting with President Obama: "A rejection of this resolution would be catastrophic, not just for him but for the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States."[9]
September 4, 2013: Following the resolution vote, McCain said, "These amendments are vital to ensuring that any U.S. military operations in Syria are part of a broader strategy to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria. That strategy must degrade the military capabilities of the Assad regime while upgrading the military capabilities of moderate Syrian opposition forces. These amendments would put the Congress on the record that this is the policy of the United States, as President Obama has assured me it is."[10]


September 1, 2013: Nelson said he supported Obama's decision to seek congressional approval, "But as far as I'm concerned, we should strike in Syria today. The use of chemical weapons was inhumane, and those responsible should be forced to suffer the consequences."[9]

Notable Opposition


September 2, 2013: Johnson blasted Obama saying he "backed America into a corner" and failed to lead on the situation in Syria. Johnson said, "I am hoping that through these hearings, through this discussion with the American people, the president can make a strong case and that we can get America behind him and behind the actions that, quite honestly, nobody wants to take." He added, "He dithered, he didn’t act decisively right off the bat, so based on, with all the leaks, with all the discussion going on, yeah I didn’t see any reason for real quick action. He’ll be in a far stronger position if he makes the case and convinces the American public and Congress.”[11]
September 4, 2013: After voting no on the Senate resolution, Johnson said, "I'm highly concerned that the administration's action will be ineffective. And I think ineffective action would be actually worse than no action whatsoever. I really did not get any kind of comfort level that this administration has adequately planned for the reprecussions of a strike against Syria. They may be able to provide me with that comfort over the next couple of days before we take the final vote. But right now I simply did not have the information or the answers to the questions I needed to even allow me to consider voting yes on this resolution."[12]

Rand Paul on Syria, Sept. 3, 2013
August 29, 2013: Paul appeared on Fox News and said he “can’t see fighting to impose Sharia law in Syria.” He also said, “I also can’t see sending my son to fight with Islamic rebels against Christians. I also can’t see my son going to fight on the same side as Al Qaeda. There’s so many ironies and unfortunate muddling nature to this that I can’t see why we should get involved, and there are potential repercussions.”[13]
August 30, 2013: Paul said he thinks the Obama administration’s only objective in Syria is “stalemate” and he does not support “sending my son, your son or anyone else’s son to fight if your goal or objective is stalemate.”[13] I think we have no strategic objective and I don’t think it’ll change the course of the war,” Paul told Fox News. “In fact, one of the things that troubles me is that we’ve already announced in advance well, it’s not going to be too much of an attack, it’s not going to last too long and we’re not for regime change.”[13] “And I’ve told them, frankly, I’m not sending my son, your son or anyone else’s son to fight if your goal or objective is stalemate,” Paul said. “That’s not what Americans are about.”[13]
September 4, 2013: Paul announced that he will introduce an amendment that will make the Congressional authorization on Syria action a binding vote.[14] Paul said in an appearance on Fox & Friends, “So this morning I will introduce an amendment to the resolution in committee and I will ask to make it a binding vote and that Congress acknowledge that this is Congressional authority and that we have the ability to grant it to the President, but the President doesn’t have the ability to initiate war without Congressional authority. That’s what the Constitution says."[14] Paul said he was “proud of the President” for asking Congress for authority, but said he wanted Sec. John Kerry in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to “admit we have the authority and if the vote goes against you, that it’s a binding vote.”[14]


September 1, 2013: Harkin said the United States should not take military action in Syria without “broad international support” and stronger evidence that chemical weapons have been used on Syria’s civilian population. He cautioned that U.S. military intervention would not solve the Syrian crisis alone.[9] “I have just attended a classified Congressional briefing on Syria that quite frankly raised more questions than it answered. I found the evidence presented by Administration officials to be circumstantial. The atrocious use of chemical weapons against civilian is an affront to human values and a violation of international law. It should be condemned by the international community as a whole. The coming debate in Congress will hopefully shine the light on outstanding questions. As will the results of the U.N. inspection team. We must wait for these results before any action is taken. What I hear from Iowans is that the Middle East has a complex history and the conflicts there will not be solved by U.S. military action alone. We should not rush into what may become a new open-ended war without broad international backing or a full understanding of the ramifications.”[9]

U.S. House

Notable Support

John Boehner on Syria, Sept. 3, 2013


September 3, 2013: Boehner supported President Barack Obama's proposed military strikes against Syria. He stated, "The use of these weapons has to be responded to and only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not to be tolerated."[9]
September 3, 2013: Cantor released a statement regarding congressional approval for intervention in Syria. He said, "I intend to vote to provide the President of the United States the option to use military force in Syria. Understanding that there are differing opinions on both sides of the aisle, it is up to President Obama to make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action, and I hope he is successful in that endeavor.”[15]


Nancy Pelosi on Syria, Sept. 3, 2013
September 3, 2013: Pelosi sent a letter on September 3, 2013, to fellow House Democrats appealing for their support for military action in Syria in response to alleged chemical weapons use.[9] “At this critical juncture, it is essential that we make all Americans — the men and women we represent — fully aware of what the intelligence clearly and unequivocally demonstrates: that the Assad regime was responsible for chemical weapons attacks against innocent Syrians, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.[9] She continued, "It is in our national interest to respond to the Syrian government’s unspeakable use of chemical weapons. Indeed, it has been, and remains, a core pillar of our national security — under Democratic and Republican administrations — to prevent, limit, and halt the spread and use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. This is a matter of national, regional, and global security."[9]
September 4, 2013: Pelosi sent a second letter to members trying to sway them to support a strike on Syria.[16] “Our continuing discussion on the appropriate response to the Syrian government’s actions is affected by Congress not being in session,” Pelosi wrote. “However, this week is an important one in our discussion of what House Members are willing to support.”[16] Pelosi acknowledged concerns she had received in response to her first correspondence, and attempted to address them. “Responses included suggestions to add language to prevent boots on the ground, to tie the authorization more closely to the use of chemical weapons and to address concerns about an open-ended timetable,” she wrote. “Chairman [Steve] Israel has suggested language along these lines, and Congressmen Chris Van Hollen and Gerry Connolly have also put forward a proposal.” Pelosi emphasized that President Barack Obama needs to make the case for the strike.

Notable Opposition


August 27, 2013: Amash said it would be illegal for the White House to launch a military strike against Syria without congressional approval.[17] Amash used his Twitter account to respond to the news that House Speaker John Boehner (R) had been consulted by the Obama administration about the potential use of force against Syria.[17] He said that if Boehner believes the president will use force, the speaker should call the House back to Washington to debate and vote on that decision.[17]
September 3, 2013: He further stated, "I don’t think the American people are ready to go to war based on circumstantial evidence. The case for going to war is not that strong, in any event. … The issue has to remain whether this is in the interests of the United States to get involved. If we go there, are we going to cause more bloodshed or less? That’s not clear to me.”[18]
September 3, 2013: DesJarlais opposed military strikes on Syria in retaliation for Syria's chemical weapon attacks. He said, "My questions were, what is our plan and what is our endgame? And is there a direct threat to America and its allies? … I don't think there's any guarantee that this conflict won't escalate, and I think there would absolutely be unintended consequences. I think it's shortsighted to launch a limited strike without expecting it." He added, "If there is a mass genocide going on, I think the world will act, but right now, the evidence I've looked at does not indicate that what has happened on Aug. 21 would indicate a need for a U.S. strike over the past year. I don't think there was a seminal moment on Aug. 21 that would mandate an American intervention."[19]


August 28, 2013: Holt was one of 65 House members who signed a letter to President Obama that invoked the War Powers Resolution of 1973. "We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria," the letter said. "Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution."[20]
August 29, 2013: Holt was one of more than 50 House Democrats that signed a letter written by California Rep. Barbara Lee calling for a congressional resolution on strikes, cautioning that the dire situation in Syria "should not draw us into an unwise war—especially without adhering to our constitutional requirements."[21][22] The letter also called on the Obama administration to work with the U.N. Security Council “to build international consensus” condemning the alleged use of chemical weapons. [21][22]

Public opinion

  • September 3, 2013: According to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans are in favor of Syrian airstrikes, while 48% oppose strikes.[23]
    • Republicans: 35% favor, 40% oppose strikes
    • Democrats: 29% favor, 48% oppose strikes
    • Independents: 29% favor, 50% oppose strikes

International positions

Notable Support

  • Jean-Marc Ayrault:
September 4, 2013: French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France must take action against Syria. He told the National Assembly, "In the face of barbarity, passiveness cannot be an option, not for France in any case." He added, "France will not act alone and will link its actions to those of other partners, beginning with the United States. We are also counting on the support of Europeans and countries in the region, especially those at the heart of the Arab League."[24]

Notable Opposition

  • Pope Francis:
September 5, 2013: Pope Francis sent Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, a letter for the leaders attending the G20 summit. The Pope said, "It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding." He called for "a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation."[25]
  • Vladimir Putin:
September 4, 2013: Russian President Putin called Secretary of State John Kerry a liar in a meeting with Russia's human rights council. While it is not clear what Putin was referring to, speculation is that it had to do with the level of al-Qaeda involvement. Kerry said he doesn't think that extremists are the majority of the opposition in Syria. Putin said, "This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans) and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad."[26]

See also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Miami Herald, "Timeline of key events in Syrian uprising," September 4, 2013
  2. U.S. News and World Reports, "John Kerry, Chuck Hagel Pitch Syrian Strike to Congress," September 3, 2013
  3. Huffington Post, "House Syria Hearing: John Kerry, Chuck Hagel Going Before Foreign Affairs Committee," September 4, 2013
  4. People Daily, "US officials hold classified briefing with lawmakers to rally support to Syria vote", accessed September 5, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Daily Beast, "Senate Breaks Own Rules in Rush to Vote on Syria War", accessed September 5, 2013
  6. Reuters, "U.S. resolution on Syria strike passes first hurdle in Senate", accessed September 5, 2013
  7. Washington Post, "Reid formally introduces Syria resolution", accessed September 6, 2013
  8. The Washington Post, "Sen. Bob Corker: U.S. action in Syria is ‘imminent,'" August 26, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Politico, "John McCain: Syria ‘no’ vote would be ‘catastrophic’," September 2, 2013
  10. Fox News, "Senate panel votes to authorize Syria strike", accessed September 6, 2013
  11. Politico, "Ron Johnson: Obama ‘not leading’ on Syria", accessed September 2, 2013
  12. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ron Johnson explains vote against resolution on Syria strike", accessed September 5, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Politico, "Rand Paul: Syria ‘objective is stalemate’," accessed August 30, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Politico, "Rand Paul plan binds Hill approval, Syria," accessed September 4, 2013
  15. Politico, "House leaders back Obama call for action in Syria", accessed September 3, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 Politico, "Pelosi sends second letter to House Dems on Syria," accessed September 5, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Washington Post, "Amash: Syria strike ‘unquestionably unconstitutional’ without congressional approval," accessed August 28, 2013
  18. Politico, "Justin Amash takes aim at John McCain", accessed September 5, 2013
  19., "Rep. Scott DesJarlais opposes Syria intervention, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann still undecided", accessed September 4, 2013
  20. Yahoo News, "65 Lawmakers Ask Obama to Consult on Syria", accessed September 5, 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 Office of Barbara Lee, "Lee Letter to President Obama," Accessed September 2, 2013
  22. 22.0 22.1 Washington Post, "More than 50 House Democrats also want Syria strike resolution," accessed September 2, 2013
  23. Pew Research Center, "Public Opinion Runs Against Syrian Airstrikes", accessed September 6, 2013
  24. LA Times, "Inaction on Syria not an option, French leader tells lawmakers", accessed September 5, 2013
  25. Yahoo News, "Military solution in Syria would be futile, Pope tells G20", accessed September 5, 2013
  26. USA Today, "Putin calls Kerry a liar", accessed September 5, 2013