Monday, March 10, 2014
By Philip Elliott / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
In this frame grab from video provided by "CBS This Morning," Syrian President Bashar Assad responds to a question from journalist Charlie Rose during an interview in Damascus, Syria.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is scheduled to speak Monday at a White House event on wildlife trafficking, planned to reiterate her support of Obama's efforts to pass the Syria resolution, according to a Clinton aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
Obama and his allies are arguing that the United States needs to remind hostile nations such as Iran and North Korea of American military might while working to reassure the nation that the lessons of the last decade were fresh in their minds.
"It is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya," White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday during one of his five network television interviews. "This is a very concerned, concentrated, limited effort that we can carry out and that can underscore and secure our interests."
But McDonough conceded the administration lacks "irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence" that skeptical Americans, including lawmakers who will start voting on military action this week, are seeking.
"It's an uphill slog," said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who supports strikes on Assad. "I think it's very clear he's lost support in the last week," Rogers added, speaking of the president.
A survey by The Associated Press shows that House members who are staking out positions are either opposed to or leaning against Obama's plan for a military strike by more than a 6-1 margin.
"Lobbing a few Tomahawk missiles will not restore our credibility overseas," said Rep. Mike McCaul, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.
Added Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.: "For the president to say that this is just a very quick thing and we're out of there, that's how long wars start."
Despite public backing from leaders of both parties to strike, almost half of the 433 current members in the House and a third of the 100-member Senate remain undecided, the AP survey found. They will be the subject of intense lobbying from the administration — as well as outside groups that have formed coalitions that defy the traditional left-right divide.
Public opinion surveys show intense American skepticism about military intervention in Syria, even among those who believe Syria's government used chemical weapons on its people.
The United States, citing intelligence reports, says the lethal nerve agent sarin was used in an Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus, and that 1,429 people died, including 426 children.
Top administration officials, including Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, planned to brief lawmakers ahead of the Wednesday vote on a resolution that would authorize the "limited and specified use" of U.S. armed forces against Syria for no more than 90 days.
The measure bars American ground troops from combat. A final vote is expected at week's end and the House is expected to take up the issue the following week.