U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says taking military action against Syria is definitively in the U.S. national interest.
Kerry spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, saying it is beyond any reasonable doubt that the Assad regime dropped chemical weapons on civilians. He said there is solid evidence the military carefully prepared for the attack, and he called it common sense that the rebels were not responsible.
While some U.S. lawmakers doubt that the United States should get involved in Syria, Kerry said extremists are desperate to get their hands on chemical weapons, and that Mr. Assad will use them again.
He called President Obama's "red line" against poison gas the world's "red line," and warned that Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea are listening for silence from the United States and its allies.
Mr. Obama has said he will look for congressional approval before making any decisions about attacking Syria.
Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, a Democrat, opened Tuesday's hearing by saying a vote on Syria is not a political decision by the Senate, but a matter of what is best for U.S. national security.
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic Senate Leader Nancy Pelosi both say they support Mr. Obama.
But others in Congress say the president's goals for Syria are still unclear. They say past experience, including the Bush administration's insistence 10 years ago that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, makes them reluctant about taking military action.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says a use of force is only legal when it is in self-defense or within the authorization of the U.N. Security Council.
He told reporters Tuesday that a U.N. inspection team that collected samples last week at the site of the suspected chemical attack near Damascus is working around the clock to prepare its formal report.
Congressman Eliot Engel Democrat:
"To turn weapons of mass destruction on your own population is the most despicable thing that anyone can do. If we did not respond in kind, it would send a message to every despot, every thug, every dictator, every terrorist group in the world that you can commit war crimes and murder your own citizens with impunity and nothing is going to happen. "
"We recognize that there are certain weapons that when used can not only end up resulting in grotesque deaths but also can end up being transmitted to non-state actors, can pose a risk to allies and friends of ours, like Israel, like Jordan, like Turkey."