Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said that “especially” after Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful accusations against Bashar al-Assad’s regime “we have to act.”
Kerry, speaking for the Obama administration, said “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.”
“We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead,” he said. “Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up.”
On CNN, King warned that the Islamic Republic is now carefully eyeing whether the White House follows up the strong rhetoric.
“I’m not certain where this is going to lead, but once that red line has been crossed and once chemical weapons have been used, I believe the president has to take action, not just because of Syria but because of the entire region. Iran is going to look at how we respond as they go forward with their nuclear weapon program,” said the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“Allies in the region, adversaries in the region are going to look so we have to take action. I believe that cruise missiles would be the best as far as destroying the chemical weapons locations and also, as far as taking out command and control locations. But having said that, I’m still not a big advocate for the rebels because I believe they’ve become largely controlled or significantly controlled by al-Qaeda elements. If the president had taken action two years ago we would be a lot better off,” he added.
King, like many other lawmakers, cautioned against sending planes over Syria for the risk that Americans could be shot down.
“At this stage, I believe we should use — have maximum use of cruise missiles going at the locations where the chemical weapons are stored. And also, at their command and control locations and also, if we — any other key targets in Syria that we can hit we should,” he said.
On allegations that Assad didn’t cross the red line, “there’s always a possibility, but you have to act on what is available,” the congressman said.
“There’s more of a concern here that we lose our credibility if we don’t act in view of how strongly President Obama has warned Syria in the past not to use chemical weapons.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said yesterday that Obama needs to follow through.
“The president established a red line policy. I expect the commander in chief would consult with Congress in the days ahead as he considers the options available to him,” McKeon said in a statement. “Drawing red lines before you know what you are willing to do to back them up is folly, but now that American credibility is on the line, the president cannot fail to act decisively.”
King agreed with McKeon. “I think the president should not have set a red line unless he knew what he was going to do. We can’t arbitrarily set red lines or lay out threats unless we know what we’re doing and why we’re going to do it. But having drawn that red line, we have no choice, I feel, now, but to take firm and strong action and, again, Syria and Assad, he’s an evil person and a horrible tyrant and a menace to the entire region, but again, my other concern is I’m not sold on the rebels either. They just have too much al-Qaeda influence.”
If we don’t enforce the red line against Syria, he said, Iran will see the red line on its nuclear weapons program as meaningless.
“So this is as much a warning to Iran as I see it, as it is action against Syria. Iran has to know we’re serious. Otherwise, they are going to go I think even more speedily ahead with their nuclear programs,” he said.
Kerry said yesterday that Obama was consulting with members of Congress about strikes, but King said he’d received no contact from the administration.
“Let me make it clear. I believe the president can take the action without authorization from the Congress,” the New York Republican said. “I believe as commander in chief he has the right to take this action. It’s in his interest to consult with the leadership in the House and Senate, but I don’t believe he has to.”