The United States needs to work with its international partners and the United Nations to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for his war crimes, and it needs to pass a bipartisan bill introduced last year to require evidence against him to be preserved, Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday.
However, the Maryland Democrat told CNN's "New Day," he does not think response should be a sustained military presence in Syria.
"It is in the interest of the civilized world to make it clear that chemical weapons cannot be used. The United States is leader of the civilized world. We need to work with international partners, [but] first and foremost, we need to work with the United Nations and hold President Assad accountable for his war crimes."
Cardin also said the United States needs to take action against both Russia and Iran, as the Syrian regime "cannot exist" without them.
"We need to take action against both Russia and Iran, making it clear they need to act to control what President Assad is doing," Cardin said, noting he hopes Congress and President Donald Trump will work on a solution.
However, Cardin said it "obviously depends" on whether he himself would vote to authorize military force in response to a reported chemical attack over the weekend against one of the last remaining rebel strongholds, which resulted in the deaths of women and children.
"We're not going to authorize the use of sustained presence in Syria for the civil war," said Cardin. "We do have a responsibility with the international community to root out ISIS wherever ISIS may be found. We need to redefine that for ISIS.
"But in regard to Syria, our immediate concern is to make it clear that President Assad needs to be held accountable for his war crimes and make it clear that chemical weapons has no place in our civilized world."
Further, he said, the United States should work with international partners, "and it needs to be more than just a military option," but rather a push to undermine Assad's support from Russia and Iran.
"I think that is critically important, so we don't have another chemical weapon attack six months from now or three months from now," said Cardin. "There are steps that could be taken. I support what President [Donald] Trump did after the last attack. I thought it was a measured response. It had a definitive message. There was no sustained operations. It gets more complicated now that [Assad] has done this again."
A year ago this weekend, Cardin was one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act, along with Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire; Bob Corker, R-Tennessee; Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey; and Todd Young, R-Indiana. It has not yet been passed.
The bill requires the United States to preserve evidence against Assad that would provide materials for use against him in a war crimes trial, said the Senator. It also calls on the United Nations to establish a war crimes tribune against the Syrian leader.
"That should have been done a year ago," Cardin said. "It passed our committee. It is time for Congress to act and our leaders to work with the international community to do that. President Assad should be held accountable for war crimes. We say never again. We see over, and over again these types of atrocities. . . this time the president of Syria."
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