Obama secures key backing on Syria, push for strike continues

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 (www.qiewo.com) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday secured the key backing of House leaders in his push for military action in Syria, as his administration continued to persuade the rest of Congress by sending Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to make the case in a Senate hearing.

Obama met with Congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday morning, promising the proposed strike against Syria will be limited and proportional, and urged Congress for a prompt vote to authorize military action.

This is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message, not only to the Assad regime, but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms that there are consequences, Obama said at the onset of the White House meeting.

House Speaker John Boehner, who spoke to reporters at the White House after the meeting, pledged his support, saying the use of chemical weapons have to be responded to.

He believed the United States has the capability and capacity to stop Assad's regime and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated, calling for members of Congress to support the president.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader who is also for military action, said she doesn't believe Congress would reject a resolution authorizing military action.

The White House sent Congress a draft resolution on Saturday to authorize a military strike to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb, which an unclassified U.S. intelligence report said killed at least 1,429 people, including 426 children. Obama promised the strike would not involve boots on the ground.

Besides Boehner and Pelosi, Obama also invited chairs and ranking members of Senate and House's Armed Services Committee, Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee to the meeting, in a push to win over skeptical Congress members, especially those in the House.

MORE PUSH IN CONGRESS

Obama is not the only one engaged in persuasion.

Kerry and Hagel traveled to Capitol Hill later in the day for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria, insisting inaction would undermine U.S. credibility, and advising lawmakers not to preclude option of putting boots on the ground under any circumstances.

This is not the time for armchair isolationism ... We have spoken up against unspeakable horror. Now we must stand up and act, Kerry told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria.

Hagel, who testified after Kerry, said the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria represents grave risks and serious threats to the U.S. national security interests and its allies.

The United States must demonstrate through our actions that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, said Hagel, adding that refusing to act would undermine the credibility of other U.S. security commitments, including Obama's commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The word of the United States must mean something, said Hagel. It is vital currency in foreign relations and international and allied commitments.

The secretaries were cautious as to what an authorization from Congress should entail, as they promised that the administration has no intention of participating in Syria's civil war, while advising against precluding any option of putting U.S. ground troops in Syria.

President Obama is not asking America to go to war, Kerry said, but adding I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country.

In the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interests of our allies and all of us -- the British, the French and others -- to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, Kerry said.

Al-Nusra is reported to be an al-Qaida affiliated group that operates in Syria.

Despite the warning, Kerry tried to assured lawmakers that Obama has no intention of sending troops to fight Syria's civil war.

Whatever prohibition clarifies it to Congress or the American people, there will be no boots on the ground with respect to the civil war, said Kerry, in response to Senator Bob Corker's question.

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