Senior U.S. Democrat urges air strikes against Syria

WASHINGTON Fri Aug 23, 2013 5:35pm EDT

U.S. Representative Eliot Engel speaks during a news conference in Mexico City February 18, 2009. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

U.S. Representative Eliot Engel speaks during a news conference in Mexico City February 18, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee urged President Barack Obama on Friday to order air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government after the apparent gassing deaths of hundreds of civilians.

Representative Eliot Engel cited Obama's statement that the use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces would cross a "red line" and cause the United States to act to halt such violations of international law.

"If we, in concert with our allies, do not respond to Assad's murderous uses of weapons of mass destruction, malevolent countries and bad actors around the world will see a green light where one was never intended," Engel wrote in a letter to Obama and obtained by Reuters.

Syria denies being responsible and has in the past accused rebels of using gas.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to Engel this week saying the United States had the capability to conduct targeted air strikes in Syria to destroy runways, fuel depots and helicopters.

"And, we can do this with no boots on the ground, from stand-off distances," Engel wrote in his letter to Obama. "I know that your Administration is wrestling with these very complex issues, but I believe that we, as Americans, have a moral obligation to step in without delay and stop the slaughter."

Engel has been a strong advocate for more aggressive U.S. military intervention in Syria, as have several other members of Congress, including such influential foreign policy voices as Republican Senator John McCain.

But there remains deep opposition and skepticism among some members of the House and Senate - as well as the Obama administration - about any rush to military intervention in Syria.

Obama called the deaths of hundreds of Syrians in an apparent chemical weapons attack a "big event of grave concern," but stressed on Friday he was in no hurry to embroil Americans in a costly new war.

The United States is providing non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition, but has been slow to make good on promises to deliver weapons to moderates.

In his letter to Engel this week, Dempsey warned of the complexity of choosing sides in Syria and stressed the U.S. intervention would not extinguish the religious, tribal and ethnic tensions fueling the conflict.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (17)
G108 wrote:
Never about the people…

We tried to tell you once before:
It didn’t do much good.
We tried to warn you long ago,
But your heads are made of wood.
One more try is all you get
And then you’re on your own…
Listen hard, and stand up NOW,
Before your chance is blown.
Forget their lies, ignore the goons,
Forget their stupid rules,
We’ve said it once; we’ll say it again…

Aug 23, 2013 8:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
chekovmerlin wrote:
Yes, of course, bomb the Assad forces. That way the Islamists like Al Qaeda will be victorious. Outstanding! Let’s see, we aided Al Qaeda against the Russians in Afghanistan and how did they thank us? With 9/11. By all means, enter the fray. Help Al Qaeda and the other Islamists.

Aug 23, 2013 9:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MartyGee wrote:
If we have determined Assad has used chemical weapons:
We should bomb locations he and his command run operations. We should also bomb military leadership. The goal is to kill the people responsible for chemical weapons. Use of these chemicals by anyone against anyone is a direct threat they will be used against me and mine.
I want anyone contemplating their use to know they will be hunted down and killed.

Aug 23, 2013 11:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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