Armed Services Chairman: Arm Rebels If You're Gonna Strike
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is pushing the Obama administration to make sure it arms vetted elements of the Syrian opposition in coordination with any U.S. strikes.
“It is important that we respond effectively to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. That is why I urged the president this morning that it is vitally important to facilitate the ability of the vetted opposition to go after the weapons systems the Assad regime uses to launch chemicals as well as the tanks and artillery that defend those weapons systems," Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said today.
"I am hopeful that we will do so," the chairman continued. "That way, the American people and the world will see that this is not only an American effort, but that the Syrian people are central to the response against the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and are fighting for their own country.”
Levin said Saturday after President Obama's announcement that he would take his authorization request to Congress that he "again urged the president to use this time to help the Syrian people defend themselves by assisting vetted elements of the Syrian opposition in obtaining more effective weapons such as anti-tank weapons.”
Levin also said Friday after consultations with the administration on Syria: "I also urged the Administration to send a powerful message to the Assad regime by immediately getting lethal aid to vetted elements of the Syrian opposition. Doing so can change the balance militarily and also contribute to a political solution in Syria.”
Outside the White House today, the chairman said "there's always risk to U.S. forces when U.S. forces delivery -- even if it's at a distance, cruise missiles or other kinds of capabilities."
"But the risk is very, very slight. There's gonna be a limited duration to this attack," Levin added.
"But what needs to be unlimited is support for the efforts of vetted Syrian opposition. I shouldn't say 'unlimited.' Obviously, there's certain kinds of capabilities you're not gonna provide them, like nuclear weapons. So I shouldn't use the word 'unlimited,'" he continued. "But what's got to be far more robust is our support for the Syrian opposition. And I believe that's gonna happen."
Levin said Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in this effort, "after similar assurances of robust support."
"I'm confident, after being in the Oval Office with the president this morning and the vice president and others, that we are gonna make more robust our support for the Syrian opposition that is vetted to make it clear to the American people and to Assad that this is not just some strike from the United States of limited duration, but this is support for the majority of the Syrian people who are willing to take him on," he added.