US Senate panel approves use of force against Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel (C) and US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey (L) during a Senate house committee hearing. PHOTO: AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel (C) and US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey (L) during a Senate house committee hearing. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama’s plan to conduct punishing military strikes on Syria passed its first congressional hurdle on Wednesday, paving the way for full Senate debate on the use of force.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed an amended resolution 10-7, with one senator voting present, that authorises US military intervention with a 90-day deadline and bars US boots on the ground for combat purposes.

During the hearing, Kerry reiterated that the strikes, if approved, were about “forcing Assad to change his calculation about his ability to act with impunity can contribute to his realisation that he cannot gas or shoot his way out of his predicament.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that a resolution in Congress on the use of military force in Syria should not remove the option of using US ground troops, although he stressed there was “no intention” of inserting American soldiers into Syria’s civil war.

At the first public hearing in Congress on potential military action in Syria, Kerry said “it would be preferable” not to preclude the use of ground troops to preserve President Barack Obama’s options if there was a potential threat of chemical weapons falling into the hands of extremists.

“I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The circumstances where troops should be used could be “in the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interests of our allies and all of us – the British, the French and others – to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements,” he said.

Al-Nusra is an al Qaeda affiliated group that operates in Syria.

Source: AFP

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