Secretary of State John Kerry says he has no doubt that U.S. inaction on Syria will lead to a greater war and more use of chemical weapons.
Kerry spoke to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, in an attempt to persuade lawmakers to back a military strike on Syria. He said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has a lust for power that led him to drop poison gas on civilians outside Damascus last month.
President Barack Obama has said he will seek congressional approval before making any decision about attacking Syria. Kerry told senators a military strike against Syria is definitely in the U.S. national interest, but that doing nothing is what Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea are hoping for.
In response to questions from committee members, Kerry stressed there is no way any U.S. troops would go to Syria. He added it is up to the Syrian people to destroy the Assad regime.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, told the committee that Mr. Assad sees chemical weapons as just another part of his arsenal. Dempsey said the U.S. mission for Syria is to deter and degrade Mr. Assad's ability to use those weapons.
Secretary Kerry said it is beyond any reasonable doubt that the Assad regime used 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, as Syria's government has alleged.
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 Democrat Senate Leader Nancy Pelosi both say they back 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 leery about taking military action.