Lawmakers say Syria response is a big job

April 28, 2013 at 1:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- President Obama is on the Middle East hot seat now that evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria has surfaced, U.S. lawmakers said Sunday.

The "red line" drawn in the sand by the president appears to have been crossed and all of the major players in the region, including Israel and Iran, are waiting for the United States to make its next move.

"The president has laid down the line and it can't be a dotted line," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on ABC's "This Week." "It can't be anything other than a red line. And more than just Syria, Iran is paying attention to this. North Korea is paying attention to this."

Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC while the current evidence points to isolated, small-scale use of chemical weapons, the situation could deteriorate quickly unless the Syrian government receives a stern international response. "Right now, the chemical weapons have been small in use," he said. "But if you have a larger use, the refugee and humanitarian crisis that comes from that is huge."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., defended Obama's seemingly cautious approach to the disturbing new reports, saying the United States needed to have all of its ducks in a row. "He is looking into all of the options," she said. "To imply that maybe we're not doing enough, or we're not doing anything, I think also is a mistake."

Lining up the support of the international community, particularly President Bashar Assad's allies in Russia, would be a key step in heading off any future use of chemical weapons, Schakowsky said.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. C.A. Ruppersburger, D-Md., said putting together a possible military response was particularly daunting because of Syria's relatively sophisticated air defenses and the need to pinpoint the location of chemical arms caches before launching an attack. "We have a lot of issues on the table, and we've got to get it right," he said. "But, I believe very strongly, we have to do it as a team."

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