United States involvement in Syria
- 1 Congressional timeline
- 2 U.S. Senate
- 3 U.S. House
- 4 Public opinion
- 5 International positions
- 6 See also
- 7 External Links
- 8 References
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. 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. The group met with the House Foreign Affairs Committee on September 5.
- September 1, 2013: Several top U.S. government officials held classified briefing and several senators were in attendance.
- September 3, 2013: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and ranking member Bob Corker (R-TN) drafted a compromise resolution that was to be debated in the hearing the next day.
- September 3, 2013: The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a briefing with Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
- September 4, 2013: John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) drafted an amendment adding language which stated that the policy of the United States was 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.
- September 4, 2013: United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted 10-7 in favor of resolution setting a 60-day limit on any engagement in Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, and barred the use of U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations.
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Syria Resolution Senator Party Vote Chris Coons Democratic Bob Corker Republican Richard Durbin Democratic Jeff Flake Republican Tim Kaine Democratic John McCain Republican Bob Menendez Democratic Jeanne Shaheen Democratic Barbara Boxer Democratic Ben Cardin Democratic John Barrasso Republican Ron Johnson Republican Chris Murphy Democratic Rand Paul Republican James Risch Republican Marco Rubio Republican Tom Udall Democratic Ed Markey Democratic
- September 6, 2013: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced resolution to the Senate.
- September 8, 2013: Vice-President Joe Biden met with Senate Republicans. Obama also attended the meeting.
- September 9, 2013: National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey met with Congress.
- September 10, 2013: Bipartisan group of congressional members led by Sen. Rand Paul met to discuss ways to oppose the resolution.
- September 10, 2013: Amid news of a potential deal between Russia and Syria, in which Syrian President Assad agrees to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control, the Senate vote originally scheduled for September 11, 2013, was postponed.
- September 10, 2013: United States House Committee on Armed Services met with Secretary of State John Kerry.
- September 10, 2013: President Barack Obama met with Senate Democrats.
- September 10, 2013: John McCain and Carl Levin drafted a resolution authorizing the use of military force only after prescribed period of time in which the United Nations would be given a chance to take control of Syria's chemical weapons.
- September 10, 2013: President Barack Obama addressed the nation.
- September 11, 2013: Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed that appeared on the New York Times website. Putin argued against military intervention in Syria, "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." The line referred to Obama's speech on Tuesday night where he said, "That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth."
- September 12, 2013: Vice President Joe Biden announced that he cancelled an official trip to Panama in order to focus on the administration's Syrian efforts in the coming weeks.
- September 14, 2013: Amid news of of a mid-2014 deadline for Syria to relinquish the chemical weapons, the congressional vote was postponed.
- August 26, 2013: Corker stated that U.S. involvement in Syria was "imminent" and that "it's up to us to intervene."
- September 11, 2013: Corker blasted the briefings held with congressional members, saying in an interview with POLITICO, "Their message is just so muddled. Different audiences, they stress different things. … They keep trying to find some footing that makes them feel good, or the audience feel good; it’s been the most muddled thing I’ve ever seen in my life."
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."
- 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."
- September 11, 2013: McCain blasted the briefings held with congressional members, saying in an interview with POLITICO, "One reason is because they are not specific: They are not answering many of the questions. Certainly, that was the case in the Armed Services Committee. And Gen. Dempsey doesn’t have a lot of credibility."
- September 14, 2013: McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham released a joint statement on the Russian deal with Syria to relinquish Syria's chemical weapons. McCain and Graham called the deal, "an act of provocative weakness on America’s part. We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon." They added, "Is the message of this agreement that Assad is now our negotiating partner, and that he can go on slaughtering innocent civilians and destabilizing the Middle East using every tool of warfare, so long as he does not use chemical weapons? That is morally and strategically indefensible." The two senators offered their own recommendation saying, “The only way this underlying conflict can be brought to a decent end is by significantly increasing our support to moderate opposition forces in Syria. We must strengthen their ability to degrade Assad’s military advantage, change the momentum on the battlefield, and thereby create real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict."
- September 15, 2013: McCain made another statement on the Russian deal with Syria. He said, "It's not a matter of trust. It's a matter of whether it will be enforced. [Russia foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov] said 'there is nothing in this agreement about the use of force,' i.e. they will not agree to the use of force no matter what [Syrian President] Bashar Assad does." He added, "There is not a seriousness on the part of the Russians. We’re going to see the Russians facilitating the departure of chemical weapons while plane load after plane load of Russian aircraft coming into Damascus full of weapons and devices to kill Syrians."
- 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."
- September 9, 2013: Reid spoke to the Senate on Monday in support of military intervention in Syria. He said, "If we allow Assad’s use of chemical weapons to go unchecked and unanswered, hostile forces around the world will also assume these terrible attacks of demons like Assad are permissible, they’re OK. Americans cannot allow that. My mind returns to that turning point in the world history when the United States of America faced down an evil regime that murdered millions of innocent citizens. Millions and millions of civilians and prisoners of war were murdered by gas in Nazi death camps.” Reid added, “Some prefer isolation. That’s the easy thing to do. But sitting on the sideline isn’t what made the United States of America the greatest nation in the world in years past. Sitting on the sidelines won’t make us a better nation tomorrow.”
Reid on Syria
- September 3, 2013: Menendez presided over a hearing that debated whether or not the Senate should authorize military intervention in Syria. Syria was accused of using chemical weapons in an attack on 1,500 of its own people. Menendez personally supported taking action in Syria saying, "It is my view that the use of military force in Syria is justified and necessary given the Assad regime's reprehensible use of chemical weapons and gross violation of international law." He suggested attacking the specific regime units that carried out the chemical attacks in Eastern Damascus.
- September 11, 2013: Menendez had a strong reaction to the op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that appeared on the New York Times website on September 11, 2013. Putin said in the piece that discouraged military action in Syria, "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." The line refers to Obama's speech on Tuesday night where he said, "That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth." Menendez said the Putin op-ed made him question the seriousness of the Russian deal with Syria. He said, "I almost wanted to vomit. I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is."
- 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.”
- 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 repercussions 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."
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.”
- August 30, 2013: Paul said he thought 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.” 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.” “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.”
- September 4, 2013: Paul announced that he would introduce an amendment that would make the Congressional authorization on Syria action a binding vote. 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." 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.”
- September 11, 2013: While on Glenn Beck's radio program, Paul remarked that Obama was kowtowing to Putin, "If this were a tennis match, it would be the umpire shouting, ‘Advantage Putin!’ He seems to be running circles around this administration." Paul continued, "I don’t take [Obama’s] insecurities and inabilities to make decisions, I don’t see that as something that damns all of America."
- September 10, 2013: McConnell told the Senate that he opposed the resolution saying, “I will be voting against this resolution -- a vital national security risk is clearly not at play. There are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including the fact that this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there, and on the specific question of deterring the use of chemical weapons, the president’s proposal appears to be based on a contradiction...Either we will strike targets that threaten the stability of the regime — something the president says he does not intend to do — or we will execute a strike so narrow as to be a mere demonstration." "We cannot ignore the unintended consequences of our actions," he added.
- September 11, 2013: While speaking to a crowd at the Heritage Foundation, Cruz praised Obama's decision to seek congressional approval, while still acknowledging he would have voted "no." Cruz said, "I would have voted ‘no,’ great many others would have voted ‘no.’ But I think it reflected a wise and prudent judgement on the part of the president to postpone the vote, rather than have that authority rejected and I don’t believe that the president is going to ignore the views of the American people."
- 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. “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.”
- September 6, 2013: Manchin announced that he did not support U.S. air strikes on Syria. He said, "Given the case that has been presented to me, I believe that a military strike against Syria at this time is the wrong course of action. I believe that we must exhaust all diplomatic options and have a comprehensive plan for international involvement before we act.”
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."
- September 12, 2013: On September 11, Russia's President Vladimir Putin wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times arguing that the Syria government was not responsible for the chemical weapons. In response, Boehner stated that he was "insulted" by Putin's editorial, further elaborating:
- "The president does foreign policy and I’ve always believed while we have opinions, I probably already said more than I should have, but you got the truth."
- 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.”
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. “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. 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."
- September 4, 2013: Pelosi sent a second letter to members trying to sway them to support a strike on Syria. “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.” 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.
- September 5, 2013: Pelosi sent a third letter to members highlighting the restrictions of the Senate's use-of-force resolution, in an effort to gather support for President Obama's plan to strike Syria. In the letter Pelosi emphasized that the Senate proposal, passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “addresses some of the concerns expressed by many of our House members.”“Specifically, the resolution prevents boots on the ground, ties the authorization more closely to the use of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction, and has a limited timetable,” Pelosi wrote.
- September 9, 2013: Despite hearing opposition from his constituents, Connolly announced his support for intervention in Syria. Connolly and Representative Chris Van Hollen wrote an amendment that attempts to win support for the strikes, by limiting force. Connolly acknowledged, “It’s unpopular. I certainly listen. I like to believe the resolution I drafted reflects some of the concerns: limited time frame, no boots on the ground.”
- August 27, 2013: Amash said it would be illegal for the White House to launch a military strike against Syria without congressional approval. 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. 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.
- 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.”
- 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."
- 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."
- 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." 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. 
- September 9, 2013: Gabbard announced that she was against intervention in Syria, calling it a “serious mistake.” “I am sickened and outraged by the carnage and loss of lives caused by the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It is with gravity that I have carefully considered all the facts, arguments, and evidence and soberly weighed concerns regarding our national security and moral responsibility. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that a U.S. military strike against Syria would be a serious mistake,” Gabbard said in a press release.
- September 3, 2013: According to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans were in favor of Syrian airstrikes, while 48% opposed strikes.
- Republicans: 35% favor, 40% oppose strikes
- Democrats: 29% favor, 48% oppose strikes
- Independents: 29% favor, 50% oppose strikes
- September 9, 2013: According to a CNN/ORC International poll, 8 in 10 Americans believed Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. However, 7 in 10 said that strikes against Syria would not achieve significant goals for the U.S. and were not in our best interest.
- September 9, 2013: According to a Gallup poll, the most popular reason (43% of respondents) for opposing strikes in Syria was that it does not concern the U.S./we do not need to start another war.
- 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."
- 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."
- 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."
- Obama administration views on Syria
- United States Congress
- United States Senate
- United States House of Representatives
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