U.S. lawmakers say America cannot ignore Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
Last week, the White House told lawmakers it believes the government of President Bashar al-Assad has used a small quantity of sarin gas, a chemical weapon, in Syria’s bloody civil war. The news prompted strong reaction from legislators that continued Sunday. Speaking on the U.S. television program Meet the Press, Republican Senator John McCain demanded prompt action.
“Arming the [Syrian] rebels, making sure that we help with the refugees, and be prepared with an international force to go in and secure these stocks of chemical and, perhaps, biological weapons. There are a number of caches of these chemical weapons. They cannot fall into the hands of the jihadists."
McCain has also urged establishing a no-fly zone over Syria.
The White House says it wants the United Nations to confirm the U.S. belief that chemical weapons have been used, something President Barack Obama has described as a “red line” that would trigger a U.S. response. Senator McCain says the administration’s posture has failed to stem bloodshed in Syria.
“The president drew red lines about chemical weapons, thereby giving a green light to Bashar Assad to do anything short of that, including [firing] Scud missiles and helicopter gunships, air strikes, mass-executions and atrocities on a scale that we have not seen in a long, long time.”
The United States has provided non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. The Obama administration has resisted calls for direct U.S. military involvement in Syria, saying that President Assad’s rule will end one day regardless of any actions taken by the United States.
But even some of Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress say there is more the United States could do. Congressman Keith Ellison also appeared on Meet the Press.
“I believe the United States could play a greater role in dealing with the humanitarian crisis. I mean, we have spillage and refugees in Jordan in Lebanon, internally-displaced people in Syria. The suffering is intense, and I do not think the world’s greatest superpower, the United States, can stand by and not do anything.”
Republican Congressman Peter King said, having set down a red line in Syria, “something is going to have to be done” once that line is crossed. Neither he nor the Obama administration have specified any actions to be taken.