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US Senators Urge Non-Military Intervention in Syria

Republican Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois (file photo)
Republican Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois (file photo)

U.S. senators of both major political parties are urging greater support for Syria’s embattled opposition short of direct military intervention.

After days of bloody attacks and raids by Syrian security forces on civilians, American legislators say the United States should provide greater backing for those opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois appeared on CBS’ "Face the Nation" television program.

"We should use the diplomatic weight and authority of the United States to undermine the Syrian dictatorship. I think we are witnessing the slow end of the Assad dictatorship, and we should stand with the people of Syria."

Kirk was asked if he envisions a U.S. military role in Syria similar to ongoing U.S. efforts in Libya.

"No, I think the U.S. military is now overstretched with four major missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Japan. But U.S. weight and diplomatic authority can be a great source of strength and political support for the Syrian opposition."

That view was echoed by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

"We should encourage the democratic movement in Syria, but at the same time avoid anything like an open-ended commitment. Certainly no [U.S.] troops on the ground."

Blumenthal said he hopes events in Syria play out more like those in Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak left power without foreign intervention, than the current situation in Libya, where leader Moammar Gadhafi remains in power despite a NATO-led air campaign.

Also appearing on CBS was Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who said the United States should continue to play a constructive yet limited role in promoting democratic change in the Middle East.

"America is safest and America is strongest when we lead with our values. And the values we have that are really compelling to folks around the world are when we stand up and support democracy and people who are seeking a greater role in their own countries. We have done that in a way that I think is moving (positively impacting) the Middle East -- not towards the Seventh Century caliphate view of al-Qaida, but instead towards a view of wanting to participate in the 21st Century."

Some U.S. legislators are urging more aggressive U.S. military efforts to end the rule of Libya’s Gadhafi. But Senator Coons urged patience, saying the current strategy of applying military and economic pressure on Gadhafi needs time to work.

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