Cantor: 'Increasingly Clear' Obama 'Does Not Have a Coherent Plan' for Syrian 'Catastrophe'
Though noting that his determination to take action is on the tardy side, congressional Republicans said they're ready to work with the White House on helping Syrian civilians in the fight versus Bashar al-Assad.
"Nearly two years ago, President Obama called for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to go. A year later, the president laid down a clear red line, threatening serious consequences if Assad used or transferred chemical weapons. For months we've seen reports of such use, and today the White House finally confirmed it. It's increasingly clear the president does not have a coherent plan to manage this growing strategic catastrophe," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said.
"Despite the president's rhetoric and red lines, President Assad's brutal assault on his own people and the Syrian conflict has only become more violent. I have heard loudly and clearly from our closest partners in the region who are desperate for American leadership. They see the Syrian crisis spinning out of control, empowering Iran, and fueling instability in a critical region," he continued.
"My colleagues and I stand ready to work with the president. I call on President Obama to explain to the Congress and the American people his plan to bring this conflict to an end in a manner that protects the interests of the United States and our allies."
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) encouraged the administration "to begin, in earnest, arming the Free Syrian Army."
"At this moment, they are struggling against Iranian-backed terrorists and a despotic regime that has attacked its own people with chemical weapons," Royce said. "I urge the president to make efforts to stem the flow of refugees into neighboring countries."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said he's "pleased that President Obama’s administration has joined the growing international chorus declaring that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons in Syria, crossing the red line drawn by the president last August."
"As I called for in a USA Today oped earlier this week, the United States should assist the Turks and our Arab League partners to create safe zones in Syria from which the U.S. and our allies can train, arm, and equip vetted opposition forces," Rogers added.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) noted "red lines are meaningless unless they are backed by action."
"Tonight, representatives of the National Security Council stated, 'The President has made the decision to support Syrian opposition. That includes military support.' I expect to see more details in the coming days from the White House and the Department of Defense," McKeon said. "I am, however, deeply concerned about our ability to honor and uphold red lines. Our military readiness and our ability to respond is degraded today."
The chairman referenced units already deeply affected by cuts and those in Congress seeking even more military cutbacks in the defense reauthorization bill.
"To my friends who think there is no risk to ever deeper cuts, I ask you to tell that to the airman and the sailor who may well face down Syrian missiles in the coming weeks. To my friends who are contemplating further cuts when they vote tomorrow, consider that you may be denying that warfighter the hour of training or the piece of hardware that means the difference between life and death. None of us in comfortable putting them into harm’s way at this time, or in that place, but that does not mean they may not have to go. And that does not mean we shouldn’t give them all they need."