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White House Presents Syria Case to Congressional Leaders on Conference Call

House Dem says of the chemical weapons evidence: "The president's team agrees that this type of action cannot go without consequences."

by
Bridget Johnson

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August 29, 2013 - 6:58 pm
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WASHINGTON — With a Congress scattered across the country on recess but wary about what the U.S. will do to punish Syria after the crossing of the chemical weapons red line, President Obama’s national security team pulled lawmakers onto a conference call tonight to discuss the evidence and the path forward.

The call, hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice, just covered unclassified information, though, as it was held on an unsecured line.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Obama’s national security team “said that he is still weighing his options and will continue to consult with Congress.”

“The White House made very clear that it is beyond a doubt that chemical weapons were used, and used intentionally by the Assad regime. I agree with the president that the use of these weapons not only violates international norms, but is a national security threat to the United States,” Engel said. “The president’s team agrees that this type of action cannot go without consequences.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he earlier received a separate classified briefing on the Syria intelligence.

“While I’m opposed to American boots on the ground in Syria, I would support surgical, proportional military strikes given the strong evidence of the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical warfare. Whatever limited action is taken should not further commit the U.S. in Syria beyond the current strategy to strengthen the vetted, moderate opposition,” said Corker after the call.

“While the administration has engaged in congressional consultation, they should continue to be forthcoming with information and would be far better off if they seek authorization based upon our national interests, which would provide the kind of public debate and legitimacy that can only come from Congress.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) noted he has “previously called for the United States to work with our friends and allies to increase the military pressure on the Assad regime by providing lethal aid to vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.”

“Tonight, I suggested that we should do so while UN inspectors complete their work and while we seek international support for limited, targeted strikes in response to the Assad regime’s large-scale use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people,” Levin said. “I appreciate the administration’s continuing efforts tonight to consult with Congress about the situation in Syria, and its commitment to further consultations with Congress.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said after the call that “the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime requires a decisive response.”

“Our national security interests, those of our allies, and regional stability are at risk as Syria is disintegrating into a failed state. This is not a moment to look the other way, to blind ourselves to the horrifying images in Syria, and to send the dangerous message to the global community that we would allow the use of a chemical weapons attack to take place with impunity,” Menendez said. “Vulnerable populations throughout the world, as well as some of our allies, and potentially even our Armed Forces could be future targets if we don’t respond.”

“Tonight’s briefing reaffirmed for me that a decisive and consequential U.S. response is justified and warranted to protect Syrians, as well as to send a global message that chemical weapons attacks in violation of international law will not stand.”

More than two dozen Senate and House leaders as well as certain committee leaders participated in the conference call, which lasted 90 minutes. Fifteen members asked questions of the administration officials.

In a readout, the White House characterized the call as “building on extensive Cabinet Member outreach to Congress over the past week.”

“The views of Congress are important to the President’s decision-making process, and we will continue to engage with Members as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response to the Syrian government’s violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons,” the White House said.

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Top Rated Comments   
The direct and immediate national interest?
Obama *wants* the Musilm Brotherhood in charge of Syria. If AQ gets a leg up in the process, so what?

Remember when the towers were leveled and the news had (for about 2 days) clips of cheering children all over the mid-east? I certain BO was cheering right along with them. For him, Al-Queda getting a boost is a bonus. Why was he willing to kill obl? He'd run out of steam and was just hiding in Pakistan. BO's poll numbers took a bounce up, and AQ got a fresh new martyr.

Heck, even obl got what he wanted... 72 virgins.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yup. The putz had to put a line in the sand, and now the tide is running right over it. He is to arrogant, and will lead us all into the riptide.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There is the ever present problem of politicians confusing morality with legality. Yes, the Gassing of Syrians is morally repugnant, however, there is no legal justification for the US to interfere in the dispute. We certainly aren't allied with either side in the conflict; the rebels are filled with terrorists, and the Government has a long history of tyrannical abandonment of the rule of law.

Be sad, mourn the meaningless deaths, but they don't justify and expenditure of military might, or investment of US money. We should look to the problems within our own shores before we continue the policy of attempting to police the world.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (27)
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A red line has been drawn. Not pink, not magenta, red. This line has been drawn by Fearless Leader. If you will examine his picture which you no doubt in compliance with the law have posted on your wall, you will see the strength and determination in his jawbone. (Yes, the jawbone looks more like that of Frank Marshall Davis than Barack Sr., but let's stick to the topic.) A line exists, FL said it must not be crossed, now he must strike out with his golf club, er, cruise missile. Be afraid, Bashar, be very afraid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Syria is the symptom, Iran is the disease. I support surgical strikes on Fuehrer Khamenei's residence, the Revoltary Guard barracks, and the nuclear weapons sites. Attacking Syria will only unite Al Qaeda and hezbollah against us
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My comment is that Obama's mouth is larger than his brain; that he is unable to act as CIC as proven in the Benghazi tragedy, so how could he now declare action against any country, for any reason. Discount everything he says, and hope the few real patriots in Congress will take control. Just sayin'...........
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This entire debacle would play well on SNL.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The fact checker is wrong: current US ambassador to UN is Samantha Power, a.k.a. useless anti-American ***t. She took over from Rice (a.k.a. etc.) when Rice was elevated to a peerage at the WH as, God help us all, National Security Advisor.
Charitably, a brace of useless chicks with credentials that convince nobody.
No surprise we're in a mess.
And just look at the ''loyal opposition"...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you really want to hurt them, Barry: go there and give a speech.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Have you noticed that every time Obama gets us involved in this stuff, that our enemies, the muslim 'militants', either end up in charge or else trying to take charge?

Remember what he said about his support of muslims?

(Well, if you aren't wearing a tinfoil beanie, by now, you haven't been paying attention.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama is gearing up to strike Syria because he foolishly drew a line in the sand - once again letting his alligator mouth overload his hummingbird ass. So now Obama has to attempt to look tough - and in the process will end up looking foolish since lobbing a few missiles into Syria is unlikely to effect a change in the balance of power in Syria. Too bad he can't seem to think things through far enough to see what the real world effects of taking out a few buildings in Damascus will be - not much in the long term. And thats his problem - no long term thinking ability.

Maybe he could polish his image a la Putin - go fishing for Muskies (or ride a horse) for a few days - without a shirt of course.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oh, he'd have to one-up Putin. That means he'd going fishing for sharks or bill fish. He'd have to go bull riding. And he'd have to do it all in a Speedo and look good. Maybe he'll pull a Commodus and create some kind of crazy arena antic that will get him killed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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