US lawmakers are demanding action in Syria, saying the country crossed the “red line” by using chemical weapons against opposition fighters.
The lawmakers include Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Pressure has been mounting on the White House to do more to help the Syrian rebels since the news broke about President Bashar al-Assad allegedly using chemical weapons.
But the White House, which confirmed Assad probably did use the weapons, has been cautious to respond, saying instead that more intelligence should be gathered to determine exactly what happened before acting.
For some top-ranking senators, the wait may be too long. Senator Graham spoke during CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, saying that the best way to stop the government from winning the Syrian civil war would be to take out the government forces’ air advantage over the rebels. Graham explained:
“One way you can stop the Syrian air force from flying is to bomb the Syrian air bases with cruise missiles … you don’t need boots on the ground from the U.S. point of view.”
US President Barack Obama has already announced that chemical weapons use in Syria by the government would be crossing the red line and a “game changer” for how the United States handles the crisis. But it is still a delicate situation. While the United States does not support the Syrian government, many rebel groups are made up of al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.
The United States has feared that anti-Assad Islamist rebels could seize Assad’s chemical weapons should the Syrian government fall. Senator John McCain also stepped up his calls to the White House for action in Syria. He stated during NBC’s Meet The Press, “We could use Patriot batteries and cruise missiles.”
McCain that an “international force” should be at the ready to invade Syria if needed to secure the stocks of chemical weapons. The 2008 GOP presidential candidate added, “There are a number of caches of these chemical weapons. They cannot fall into the hands of the jihadists.”
But McCain also cautioned against letting American troops enter Syria, explaining that it would “turn the people against us.” Democratic Senator Feinstein also issued a call to action for international leaders, saying:
“The world must come together to prevent [chemical weapons use] by unified action which results in the secure containment of Syria’s significant stockpile of chemical weapons. In the bases of this new assessment, which is matched by France and the United Kingdom, I urge the United Nations Security Council … to finally take strong and meaningful action to end this crisis in Syria.”
It is still unclear whether the White House will agree to the demands of US lawmakers for action in Syria.