Rep. Peter King: Obama Doesn't Need Congress to Act on Syria

Image: Rep. Peter King: Obama Doesn't Need Congress to Act on Syria

Monday, 26 Aug 2013 03:23 PM

By Greg Richter

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Rep. Peter King believes President Barack Obama can take military action against Syria without congressional approval.

"I believe, as commander in chief, he has the right to take this action," King, R-N.Y., told CNN on Monday. "It's in his interest to consult with the leadership in the House and Senate, but I don't believe he has to."

King said he agrees with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who said Obama should not have drawn a "red line" without deciding ahead of time what we would do if it was crossed, but now that it has been drawn, the United States must follow through.

Republican strategist Karl Rove thinks Obama must get congressional approval, and he prefers a short-term solution, he told Fox News Channel. A no-fly zone, he warned, could end up being a decade-long commitment. "I'd rather seriously degrade their air assets and their ability to put planes in the air and keep them in the air," he said.

Obama in 2012 said that if Syria used chemical weapons in its civil war with rebels it would cross a "red line" that would force the United States to reconsider taking direct action in the area.

According to U.S. intelligence, Syria used chemical weapons earlier this year and again last week against civilians, including women and children. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday publicly called the action a "moral obscenity."

The United States must enforce its red-line threat against Syria or Iran will believe it can move forward with its nuclear weapons plans without interference, King said.

But he still isn't willing to take the side of Syrian opposition forces in the war, he said.

"I am still not a big advocate for the rebels, because I believe that in the last year or so they've become significantly controlled by al-Qaida."

Kerry on Monday said the evidence of a massive deadly chemical attack last week was "undeniable" and accused the Syrian government of trying to cover it up, signaling the United States was edging closer to a possible military response.

In the most forceful U.S. reaction yet after Wednesday's suspected gas attack outside Damascus, Kerry said President Obama "believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people."

Kerry spoke after U.N. chemical weapons experts interviewed and took blood samples on Monday from victims of last week's apparent chemical attack in a rebel-held suburb of Syria's capital, after the inspectors themselves survived sniper fire that hit their convoy.

"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world," Kerry told reporters. "Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity."

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Kerry accused the government of President Bashar Assad of acting like it had something to hide by blocking the U.N. inspectors' visit to the scene for days and shelling the area.

"Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up," Kerry said.

The information so far, including videos and accounts from the ground, indicate that chemical weapons were used in Syria, he said.

"It is undeniable," he said, adding it was the Syrian government that maintained custody of chemical weapons and had the rockets capable of delivering them.

Kerry stopped short of explicitly blaming the Syrian government for the gas attack but strongly implied that no one else could have been behind it and said the United States had additional information it would provide in the days ahead.

There were mounting signs that the United States and Western allies were laying the groundwork for some kind of military response to the incident, which took place a year after Obama declared the use of chemical weapons a "red line" that would require strong action.

Obama, who withdrew troops from Iraq and is winding down the conflict in Afghanistan, has been reluctant to intervene in 2½ years of civil war in Syria.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Saturday showed that about 60 percent of Americans opposed U.S. military intervention, while only 9 percent thought Obama should act.

But with his international credibility seen increasingly on the line, Obama could opt for limited measures such as a missile strike to punish Assad and seek to deter further chemical attacks, without dragging Washington deeper into the fight.

 

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