A Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said President Obama needs to add the Arab League or Turkey to his coalition against Bashar al-Assad so it doesn’t look like the West vs. Muslims.
“We’re getting closer every moment with Secretary of State Kerry’s announcement this afternoon that there’s undeniable evidence that this is a regime-directed attack using chemical weapons,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said of military action on CNN.
“We are moving closer. The hope I have, though, is first that we assemble such a coalition of European countries and NATO allies and worldwide that that political pressure might be sufficient. But my sense is, it probably will not, and that we might have to take further steps.”
Reed said unilateral action to enforce the red line after Assad used chemical weapons would be “a mistake.”
“I think we have to enlist all of the — a willing coalition. The statements by Great Britain, by France, by many others, the active statements of some of the Turkish leaders suggest that they could be and would be supportive,” he said. Of Arab allies, “without their participation, it looks as if this is just a Western-vs.-Islamic struggle. It’s not. This is to vindicate a basic rule of international law that these weapons will not be used, not by Iran, not by any power.”
The senator said “time is important, but doing it right is more important.”
“And without this political cohesion, we won’t be able not only to assemble the appropriate forces, but also over the long term to anticipate what the reaction might be from the Syrians and from others. We don’t want to assume just a one-off action will solve this dilemma,” Reed said. “We have to prepare if we take action to follow through, and that requires a cohesive political grouping, not just military action.”
He said cruise missiles launched from sea would be “the most realistic option” for strikes on Syria.
“But I think first we have to deliver a strong international message that this behavior cannot be countenanced. Second, we have to make it clear what our objective is, which is I think principally that these weapons will not be used and that the Syrians have to put them sort of in a situation where they won’t be used,” Reed continued.
“And then we can work, I hope, on the diplomatic front to try to get some type of diplomatic traction with the overall issues in Syria… But the president has to choose now.”
“If there is a strong coalition internationally, if we have precise objectives, and if we are also worried about a further use of chemical weapons, that might precipitate a response before Congress can come back together,” Reed added. “Definitely, Congress has to be consulted. Under the War Powers Act, they have to be notified. In Libya, the president notified us, but did not seek specific approval.”