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White House Wants Syria ‘Red Line’ to Be Determined by UN

Despite that body's schooling on what a red line means, lawmakers are livid about the message Obama's sending.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

April 25, 2013 - 8:17 pm
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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said it’s “important that we read the intelligence as it is laid out, not as we would like it to be.”

“President Obama correctly said that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be a red line for the United States. Now that we have confirmed their use, the question is what is our plan for transition to a post-Assad Syria?” Rogers said. “I have laid out several steps, short of boots on the ground. The world is waiting for American leadership.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said “the time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end.”

“It’s clear the ‘red line’ drawn by President Obama has now been crossed,” Rubio said. “…I urge President Obama to explain to Congress and the American people how he will ensure Syria’s chemical and biological weapons stockpiles are secured, how we’ll work with our allies to prevent further use of these deadly weapons, and what additional measures he is ready to take to follow through on his previous statements.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce noted that if Obama wanted international confirmation, the French and British have already ascertained that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons.

“Tomorrow, I will be briefed on the Syria situation by Secretary Kerry,” Royce said. “At that briefing, I will ask the secretary to explain the administration’s new plans in Syria.”

Some Democrats, though, were willing to give Obama some breathing room on the definition of red line and urged a careful international response.

“Based on the intelligence that we have, it appears that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people. If true, this is a sad and worrisome development in an ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. “We must work with our partners in the region and the international community to confirm beyond a doubt that chemical weapons were in fact used and, if so, determine who used them and when. The seriousness of the situation dictates a thorough and thoughtful approach.”

“The Syrian people deserve the right to live free of tyranny and oppression and the United States must continue to be a force for good in the world,” Smith added. “I encourage the administration to take the time necessary to confirm what has taken place and to develop an appropriate response.”

Even some liberals, though, criticized a failing policy and White House wordplay.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said “the time has come for a new policy,” as the current path “is no longer strategically or morally sustainable.”

“Syria today is the scene of some of the worst state-sponsored violence since Milosevic’s war crimes in the Balkans,” Jackson Lee said. “What is all the more astonishing is that Dr. Assad’s killing spree has continued despite severe and escalating international pressure against him. Despite a year’s worth of diplomacy backed by sanctions, Assad and his lieutenants show no signs of giving up. To the contrary, they appear to be accelerating their fight to the finish.”

“…The Syrian people deserve a chance at freedom, and shame on us if we fail to help them now in their moment of greatest need.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez, who was expected to be harder on administration parsing than his predecessor John Kerry, said there’s no question that the red line has been crossed.

“The Assad regime has crossed a red line by using chemical weapons, which forces us to consider all options as to how we act to influence the balance of the conflict. Among these options would be the enforcement of an internationally-recognized no-fly zone, providing lethal assistance to vetted opposition forces, and sanctioning the transfer of arms to the regime,” he said.

“The greatest humanitarian crisis in the world exists in and around Syria. It is clear that we must act to assure the fall of Assad, the defeat of extremist groups, and the rise of democracy,” Menendez added. “We must do everything possible to prevent the regime’s use of chemical weapons and to ensure those stockpiles are secure.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.