A US Senate panel has reached a deal on draft authorization for the use of military force in Syria, which is to be voted on Wednesday. President Obama has already won backing for a strike from senior Republicans.
Following a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday, the panel reached an agreement on a draft authorization to use military force in Syria in response to a suspected chemicals weapons attack, the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies reported, citing a copy of the draft resolution.
Among other provisions, the draft sets a 60-day limit on military action in Syria, with the possibility for a single 30-day extension subject to congressional approval. The draft also includes a provision banning any use of US armed forces on the ground in Syria.
President Barack Obama has called on lawmakers to support a limited, tailored military strike aimed at degrading Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ability to carry out further chemical weapons’ attacks.
Kerry drums up support
Earlier during the committee hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testified in favor of a military strike.
Kerry said the reputation of the US among its allies would be damaged if Washington showed it is unwilling to act.
When asked what President Obama would do if Congress votes against a strike, Kerry said it would be an “enormous setback to America’s capacity and to our vision in the world and the role of leadership we play.” He said inaction would embolden US foes Iran and North Korea and threaten regional allies, such as Israel.
The vote is set for when Congress returns from its summer recess next Monday. Obama has said he is confident that he will earn Congress’ backing.
Allies awaiting US decision
Defense Chief Hagel told the Committee that France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others in the region, are key partners in any US action.
French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday he would await a decision from the US Congress and would not strike Assad’s regime alone.
Obama delayed an apparent US military build-up in the region last Saturday after Britain’s parliament voted “no” to Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid for military action.
General Dempsey said Syrian ally Russia may increase military assistance to Damascus should the US strike. “There is some indication that they [the Russians] have assured the regime that if we destroy something, they can replace it,” he said.
Russia has used its veto power in the UN Security Council several times to block resolutions condemning Assad’s government.
Obama backed by Republicans
Earlier Tuesday, President Obama received support from senior Republicans for a punitive military strike during bipartisan White House talks. Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said they would support the president’s call to use military force.
The votes anticipated next week in the US House of Representatives and the Senate will take place after Obama ends an overseas trip to Europe, for which he sets out late Tuesday. Obama is to arrive in Stockholm on Wednesday morning before travelling on to Russia’s Baltic Sea city of St Petersburg for a G20 economic summit.
hc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)