Obama tries to persuade skeptics on Syria

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham say vote against action 'would be catastrophic in its consequences'
Associated Press
Sep 2, 2013

President Barack Obama worked on Monday to persuade skeptical lawmakers to endorse a U.S. military intervention in civil war-wracked Syria, winning conditional support from two leading Senate foreign policy hawks even as he encountered resistance from members of his own party after two days of a determined push to sell the plan.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Obama still needs to make a strong case for attacking the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they toned down past criticism that the president's plan was too weak to change the course of the fighting in Syria in favor of the opposition.

"We have to make it clear that a vote against this would be catastrophic in its consequences," now and in future international crises, McCain told reporters outside the White House following an hour-long private meeting that he and Graham had with Obama.

But the outcome of any vote remained in doubt amid continued skepticism in a war-weary Congress. Several Democrats in a conference call with administration officials pushed back against military action, questioning both the intelligence about a chemical attack last month outside Damascus and the value of an intervention to United States interests, according to aides on the call. Others demanded narrower authorization than that requested by the administration.

"The White House has put forward a proposed bill authorizing the use of force that, as drafted, is far too broad and open ended, and could be used to justify everything from a limited cruise missile strike to a no fly zone and the introduction of American ground troops," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House intelligence committee.

In a post on his website, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota reflected a view shared by others: "I want you to know that I am vehemently opposed to a military strike that would clearly be an act of war against Syria, especially under such tragic yet confusing circumstances as to who is responsible for the use of chemical weapons."

After changing course and deciding to seek congressional approval for military action, Obama is confronted with one of his most difficult foreign policy tests and faces a Congress divided over an unavoidably tough vote-of-conscience on overseas conflict rather than the more customary partisan fights over domestic policy.

"My impression is that a lot of people are up for grabs," McCain said.

Following months of rejecting direct intervention in Syria, Obama and his aides now want to strike at the Assad regime in response to a reported chemical attack that the Obama administration says was carried out by Assad's military. The administration says more than 1,400 people were killed, including more than 400 children.

Obama was trying to find a middle ground that would attract a majority in the House and the Senate — a difficult task complicated further because Obama is leaving for a three-day trip to Europe Tuesday night, visiting Stockholm, Sweden, and then attending an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The visit is all the more significant because Russia has sided with the Syrian regime. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Monday the information the U.S. showed Moscow to prove the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack was "absolutely unconvincing."

In a daring move, Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering sending a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.

The White House is engaging in what officials call a "flood-the-zone" persuasion strategy with Congress, arguing that failure to act against Assad would weaken any deterrence against the use of chemical weapons and could embolden not only Assad but also Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Obama has stressed that whatever action he takes, it will not result in placing American troops on the ground in Syria.

On Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify publicly before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Earlier Tuesday, other members of the administration's national security and intelligence teams were to hold a classified, closed-door briefing for all members of Congress. A similar session was held Sunday and more will be held Thursday and Friday.

Kerry will also testify Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will hold a classified briefing Wednesday with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Members of the House Democratic caucus participated in an unclassified conference call Monday with Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, Kerry, Hagel, Clapper and Dempsey.

Following their white House meeting, McCain and Graham, who often speak in unison on foreign policy matters, said they were more inclined to back Obama's call for military action against Syria if it helps destroy the regime's missile launching capabilities and if the U.S. commits to provide more assistance to Syrian opposition forces.

"A degrading strike limited in scope could have a beneficial effect to the battlefield momentum," Graham said. "There will never be a political settlement in Syria as long as Assad is winning."

McCain, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 and lost to Obama, said Obama clearly was asking for his help in rounding up votes. "I don't think he called us over because we're old campaign pals," he joked.

A senior state department official said Kerry called Syrian rebel commander Salim Idris on Monday discuss Obama's decision to seek congressional authority and to express confidence that U.S. military action would hold Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons, deter his behavior and degrade the regime's ability to carry out such attacks. He also stressed the need for a "strong and unified moderate opposition."

As recently as Saturday, McCain and Graham issued a joint statement saying they could not support isolated military strikes that were not part of a broader strategy to change the momentum of the civil war and result in Assad's removal from power.

After Monday's meeting, McCain said: "Now we are talking about ways of approaching this issue in a way that could be effective. We've got to see more, but at least they are talking about some options that I think could work. "

Asked whether Obama would expand his targets in Syria, McCain alluded to the Navy's decision to place two aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea. The USS Truman arrived in the region to take the place of the USS Nimitz, which was supposed to head home. But the Navy ordered the Nimitz to stay for now.

"I don't think it's an accident that the aircraft carriers are in the region." McCain said.

U.S. officials, however, have described the decision as prudent planning and have said it doesn't suggest the Nimitz would play a role in any possible strikes in Syria.

 

Comments

Stop It

F_U! Stay out of Syria! It's a civil war!

We've had enough of you war mongers playing games with peoples lives to enrich your bank account.

They are taking down videos of the Syrian rebels and how they caused the release of chemical weapons that Saudi Arabia gave them.

abigbear

SO GLaD THEY have NEVER NEVER NEVER Lied to the people
and this is the truth I sure trust them(NOT WITH MY LIFE)

abigbear

nothing good will come from going in over there

Stop It

Somebody wants this freakin' war and it is NOT the people of the USA, nor the military personnel who will be made to go...

Centauri

"Somebody wants this freakin' war and it is NOT the people of the USA, nor the military personnel who will be made to go..."

The rich ruling class who run the Industrial Military Complex want war. War is a money maker for them. The rich ruling class with the help of the CIA help start wars. False flags are one of the CIA favorites. Bring the troops home to go after these domestic terrorists who rule over us.

SamAdams

It's kind of refreshing to see a number of Democrats, who were for the war in Iraq before they were against it, coming out against Obama's "request" for authorization to intervene in Syria's civil war. Interestingly enough, one of George W. Bush's biggest critics — former Senator Barack Obama — has clearly now changed his tune! Nicer still, though, is how many are currently refusing to dance to it.

Unless there's a whole lot of information that Senators McCain and Graham have that the rest of us don't, it looks very much like both they and the White House are completely wrong on this one. I have to congratulate President Putin on considering sending Russians here to brief Congress. At least, for once, Congress will get more than one side and more than one set of information to consider!

The Big Dog's back

So now you think Russia should guide our Congress? What?

Darwin's choice

Grand offer to help the clueless.......democrats/Obama!

SamAdams

Do I think Russia should GUIDE our Congress? No. But do you suggest that Congress should act without as much information as possible? Just because it all too often does is no excuse not to accept information when it's offered!

Russia will probably never be our best buddy. But when it's inclined to offer at least SOME cooperation — and given its close relationship to Syria — Obama would be even dumber than I already think he is to decline to even hear what they have to say!

deertracker

Give us your education credentials Sam. You seem to know so much about who is dumb and why so how intelligent are you? Your recent posts don't seem to support much education at all!

JudgeMeNot

Liberals know what they know.

The Big Dog's back

How many more of you traderous, treasonous right wingnuts want Russia to tell us what to do. Move to Russia if you want President putin. Get the he!! out of this country.

Contango

Re: "How many more...

You're awfully eager for war - join up putz!

arnmcrmn

of course he is....Obama wants war and the left are jumping in without any details. Funny because you know google has been ringing off the hook today with searches such as "syria has a problem?" "syria...why war?" by the left.

coasterfan

Sam: Unless Sen McCain, Sen. Graham and Pres. Obama asked you to sit in for today's meeting, let's assume that they DO know something you don't know.

Contango

Re: "let's assume that they DO know something you don't know."

Then let the "most transparent administration in U.S. History" come clean regarding how Syria's civil war affects OUR national security and why we should launch a military strike.

Mystery_Cheese

Sure Mr. President! Let's go help out Al Qaeda, who more than likely set off the chemical weapons on their own allies in order to draw us into yet another war in the Middle East. Why does no one listen to what Bin Laden had said? He wanted us over there fighting, weakening our defense at home, and destroying our economy. We're doing exactly what he wanted.

The young photojournalist who was held hostage for 81 days by Syrian rebels even said himself that he highly doubts Assad, who was winning the war against the rebels, would use chemical weapons, and damage his standing with the international community. This brave man stated that he believes Al Qaeda had something to do with the chemical weapons. Even my boy Dr. Ron Paul is advocating the idea that Al Qaeda is simply using this as an opportunity to make the U.S. look bad on the international stage.

KnuckleDragger

LOL. Isn't it funny to see the usual contingent of Obama pole sitters (Big Dog and Coasternut) come out in support of Obama inserting us into a civil war? These are the same kooks who have reeled against both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which mind you, we had more of a reason to be involved in than Syria. If this doesn't show you the hypocrisy and downright infantile following that Obama enjoys from his socialist supporters, nothing will. His followers are truly insane if they agree with the likes of McCain and Graham. Heck, even most Repubs don't particularly care for there decisions. McCain is a senile old coot who should have retired years ago.

dorothy gale

I agree wholeheartedly. Other world leaders SHOULD come here and speak to our government. They must be made to realize that we are not the only country to have a say in world affairs.

Stop It

When any opposition of any issue is taken down/banned/censored from something as broad as the internet, there is a problem.

I just watched and read those things last night and today and BOOKMARKED them. Now they are gone.

Centauri

Many of my bookmarks also have stopped working. The rich ruling class allow only their lies to stay on the internet but the truth gets deleted.

bayshore

Hey Barry......the answer is NO, unless you, Michell and Joe want to be first on the ground to lead the way.

The New World Czar

McCain = Graham = RINO.

coasterfan

RINO = (n.) A Traditional Republican with traditional conservative values who hasn't changed one bit. Typically labeled thusly by right wing TeaParty extremists, who are so far to the Right from the rest of their party that THEY are the true Republicans In Name Only.

Darwin's choice

http://drudgereport.com/

92% of people polled vote no to Syria

FAILURE = (n) Obama's 5 years of foreign policy. General lack of functional leadership, even Nancy Pelosi won't back up for him......!!

KnuckleDragger

Lefty wackos like coasternut only care about polls that support their own warped position. Fuggitaboutit. You can't convince an idiot.

Contango

Re: "THEY are the true Republicans In Name Only."

YOU are defending Repubs Comrade Warhawk? LMAO!!!

Darwin's choice

Even Al-Assad throws Obama under the bus.....

"Well, here we are. It’s been two years of fighting, over 100,000 people are dead, there are no signs of this war ending, and a week ago I used chemical weapons on my own people. If you don’t do anything about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. If you do something about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. Morally speaking, you’re on the hook for those deaths no matter how you look at it.

So, it’s your move, America. What’s it going to be?"

bullydogs1971

so you don't think your government would stage false flags???.......Google operation Northwoods.....i'll wait...

bullydogs1971

so we should bomb and kill Syrians cause Syrians are killing Syrians....???? huh???

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