Kerry Again the Point Man for Action on Syria

For the fourth time this week, Secretary of State John Kerry acted as the point man for making the case for punitive military action against Syria, pushing the need for attacks even as the Obama administration’s policy on Syria remains in flux.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” Kerry said that “we don’t contemplate that Congress is going to vote no,” on the Authorization to Use Military Force document that the White House sent to the Hill late Saturday.

It’s well known that Kerry has long been an advocate for military action to try and punish the Assad regime in Damascus for the slaughter of an estimated 100,000 civilians over the past two years. But despite two emotional speeches this week in which he was tasked with making the case for US strikes, the White House nevertheless changed direction at the last minute on Saturday, and decided to ask for Congressional approval first.

And here come the Congressmen.

Appearing on the same CNN program, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) agreed with the Secretary, predicting that once Congress comes back into session on Sept. 9, it will vote to back the White House on launching strikes against Syria. “I think at the end of the day Congress will rise to the occasion,” he said, “this is a national security issue.”

But others have different ideas.

Appearing on Fox news Sunday, Rep. Peter King, (R-NY) and Sen. James Inhofe, (R-Ok) appeared dubious about the prospects of the White House receiving the approval of the Hill.

King said that “I think it is going to be difficult” for the administration due to the “isolationist” ideologies among some in the Republican Party, particularly the Tea party-affiliated Representatives in the House.

Inhofe agreed that Congress was unlikely to go along with the White House, would approve a war resolution.

In a separate appearance on Meet the Press, Kerry continued to press the case, saying that the US has proof that a chemical attack took place. “In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, (that) hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” he said.

The United Nations says that it will likely be weeks before their own tests on evidence collected in Syria are complete.

Kerry repeated on Meet the Press his conviction that “I do not believe the Congress of the United States will turn its back on this moment,” and will pass the bill calling for military action. “The Congress adopted the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Congress has passed the Syria Accountability Act. Congress has a responsibility here too,” he said.

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Paul McLeary

McLeary covers national security policies at the White House, Pentagon, the Hill, and State Department.
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