Two leading Republican senators called for the United States to establish a no-fly zone to aid Syrian opposition rebels following word that Syrian President Basher Assad has used chemical weapons multiple times during the conflict.
The White House confirmed Thursday that Assad had crossed a "red line" established by President Barack Obama under which the United States would be willing to become more involved in the conflict.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called for Obama to establish a no-fly zone, which would aid the rebels without having Americans put boots on the ground.
entered Syria in late May 3 to meet with opposition leaders and has been calling on the White House to get involved because he said the fight is growing into a regional conflict.
"This isn’t just a bunch of demonstrators being beaten up. This a regional conflict. It spilled over. Jordan is destabilized, Lebanon is about to erupt into sectarian violence, jihadists are falling in from all over the Middle East. This is erupting," McCain told CNN.
"The goal is to end the war. And the only way this war is going to end quickly and on our terms is to neutralize the air assets that Assad enjoys," Graham told Politico.
"We can crater the runways. There are four air bases he uses. We can stop the planes from flying. We can shoot planes down without having one boot on the ground."
Announcing that Syria had used chemical weapons
, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters, "The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition, that will involve providing direct support to the (Supreme Military Council), that includes military support. This is going to be different in both scope and scale in term
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., expressed support for the White House's announcement. "The United States should assist the Turks and our Arab League partners to create safe zones in Syria from which the U.S. and our allies can train, arm, and equip vetted opposition forces," he said.
"What more does the civilized world need in order to come to the aid of the Syrian people who want to rid themselves of this monster?” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said. "The president's 'red line' has clearly been crossed, and it is crystal clear that the United States must provide appropriate arms to those in Syria fighting for their lives and freedom. Further delay is not an option."
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., called the action "a day late and a dollar short. … We lost a tremendous advantage to go in early to stop some of what was going on."
Earlier in the day, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told a group of evangelicals the U.S. should not be siding with the opposition at all because of its ties to terrorist groups.
See video of McCain below.
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