U.S. defense chief says attack on Syria would not be 'pin prick'

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) testifies alongside Secretary of State John Kerry at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers on Wednesday that a planned military strike on Syria over its chemical weapons use would not be a “pin prick” and would significantly reduce President Bashar al-Assad’s military power.

“The president (Barack Obama) has said ... this would not be a pin prick. Those were his words. This would be a significant strike that would in fact degrade his capability,” Hagel told a hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, which is considering whether to authorize use of military force.

Hagel also said he thought “the likelihood is very high” that Assad would use chemical weapons again unless the United States took action to make clear use of the weapons was unacceptable. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed, saying he thought it was “100 percent” likely.

Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Sandra Maler