Kerry predicts Congress will approve attack on Syria

Sept. 1, 2013 at 12:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he was confident Congress would authorize a U.S. attack on Syria, but lawmakers were less confident.

Kerry said Sunday the evidence collected at the scene of the Aug. 21 chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs proved sarin gas had been used by the Syrian military and the United States had no choice but to take punitive action to make President Bashar Assad think twice about repeating the attack.

"If you don't, you send a message on impunity," Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union.

Kerry made the rounds of the Sunday television talk shows to pump up congressional and public support for a response to the gas attack, which killed around 1,400 civilians in a Damascus suburb where rebels had been active. Kerry said the proof that deadly sarin had been deployed was solid and was being strengthened.

"We are saying that the high confidence that the intelligence community has expressed and the case that I laid out the other day is growing stronger by the day," Kerry said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Kerry said President Obama was not committed solely to a military response, but he stressed that sending a message to Assad would also fire a shot across the bow of U.S. adversaries from the Middle East to North Korea. "We will be granting a blanket license to Assad to continue to gas and we will send a terrible message to the North Koreans, Iranians and others who might be trying to read how serious is America about enforcing its non-proliferation weapons initiatives," he said.

Kerry declined repeatedly to say what Obama would do if Congress refuses to give its blessing to a military response. He instead said he was confident Congress would go along as it further examines the evidence. "We are not going to lose this vote," he told ABC's "This Week."

Republican lawmakers, however, were chilly in their responses to Kerry. Some reiterated their view that a military strike would not have a decisive impact on the war and could drag the nation and its overtaxed military into a longer-running role in the Syrian rebellion.

"I would oppose military intervention against Syria," Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said on "Fox News Sunday." "It may sound real easy when people like Secretary Kerry say this is going to be quick and we'll go in and we're going to send a few cruise missiles, wash our hands and go home. But it doesn't work that way. This could be war in the Middle East. It's serious."'

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told NBC he thought the prospects Congress would back Obama were "50-50" and warned U.S. military strikes would only lead to more misery in Syria.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" giving Congress time to parse the finer points of a military strike meant the White House would have to be ready to provide details and candid answers. "I would say if the president cannot make his case to Congress then it's not going to pass," he said. "He's got to come out and really be in-depth with respect to the intelligence that we know is out there...and what is our current strategy?"

But other lawmakers predicted the president would get the authorization he needed once the dust settled.

"I think at the end of the day, Congress will rise to the occasion," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN. "This is a national security issue. This isn't about Barack Obama versus the Congress."

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