U.S. Senate committee passes draft resolution on Syria ahead of G20 summit

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a draft resolution that would give President Barack Obama limited authority to use force against Syria. The resolution, which passed narrowly in a 10 to 7 vote, would allow for a 60-day window for military strikes on Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, but blocked the use of ...

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a draft resolution that would give President Barack Obama limited authority to use force against Syria. The resolution, which passed narrowly in a 10 to 7 vote, would allow for a 60-day window for military strikes on Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, but blocked the use of U.S. ground troops. The resolution stated the goal of U.S. policy will be to "change momentum on the battlefield" in Syria's civil war. The full Senate is expected to vote on the resolution next week. In the House, another resolution is circulating and there is expected to be prolonged debate after representatives return from recess. The Pentagon is revising options for military action on Syria, reflecting concerns that President Bashar al-Assad has dispersed his military equipment in preparation for a U.S. strike. In a news conference Wednesday, Obama appealed to the international community saying it cannot remain silent in the face of the Syrian regime's "barbarism" in using chemical weapons, continuing that, "failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and the possibility that other countries would use these weapons, as well." Obama has arrived in Russia for the G20 summit, which is expected to show divisions between Washington and Moscow on Syria. Meanwhile, fighting continued for a second day between government forces and rebel fighters including members of al Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra in Maaloula, a predominantly Christian village about 40 miles northeast of Damascus. Rebel fighters launched an assault on the village Wednesday despite a heavy Syrian army presence. 

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a draft resolution that would give President Barack Obama limited authority to use force against Syria. The resolution, which passed narrowly in a 10 to 7 vote, would allow for a 60-day window for military strikes on Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, but blocked the use of U.S. ground troops. The resolution stated the goal of U.S. policy will be to "change momentum on the battlefield" in Syria’s civil war. The full Senate is expected to vote on the resolution next week. In the House, another resolution is circulating and there is expected to be prolonged debate after representatives return from recess. The Pentagon is revising options for military action on Syria, reflecting concerns that President Bashar al-Assad has dispersed his military equipment in preparation for a U.S. strike. In a news conference Wednesday, Obama appealed to the international community saying it cannot remain silent in the face of the Syrian regime’s "barbarism" in using chemical weapons, continuing that, "failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and the possibility that other countries would use these weapons, as well." Obama has arrived in Russia for the G20 summit, which is expected to show divisions between Washington and Moscow on Syria. Meanwhile, fighting continued for a second day between government forces and rebel fighters including members of al Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra in Maaloula, a predominantly Christian village about 40 miles northeast of Damascus. Rebel fighters launched an assault on the village Wednesday despite a heavy Syrian army presence. 

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

US-Iran Nuclear Deal Hinges on Syria Vote‘ (Jon Alterman, Al-Monitor)

"Should the White House, with its immense power and prestige, fail to build sufficient support, leaders around the world will conclude that this president can be defied with impunity. If he cannot win the support of those close to him, what hope does he have of winning over those at a distance?

The consequence here would be a combination of much more difficult diplomacy and even more bad behavior around the world that requires diplomacy to address. Hard-liners in Iran and their allies around the Middle East would certainly be emboldened, and regional states would be far less likely to rely on US cues in managing their own issues. Arab-Israeli negotiations, as well, would be dealt a fundamental blow, as each party would retreat to its own maximal position. China, Russia and a host of other countries are watching closely as well.

Whether seeking congressional approval for military action against Syria was the right decision, it is a gambit President Obama cannot afford to lose. What he has done is raise the stakes, not only for the remaining years of his presidency, but also for the US role in the world. For a president who has sought to end unnecessary US entanglements in the Middle East, his entire foreign policy legacy hinges on persuading Congress that one more entanglement is necessary. If he cannot do that, the results will resound for years to come."

The American Jewish Cocoon‘ (Peter Beinart, The New York Review of Books)

"In 2010, an Orthodox professor of Jewish philosophy named Charles Manekin noticed a photo in The Wall Street Journal. It was of American Jewish students, likely in Israel for a year between high school and college, screaming at a Palestinian woman in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem where settlers have evicted Palestinians from their homes. In response, Manekin wrote an open letter to American Jewish leaders entitled ‘Recognizing the Sin of Bigotry, and Eradicating It.’ In it, he proposed that Jewish ‘schools should invite Palestinian refugees to speak to the students about their experiences.’ The speeches, he explained, would not be ‘about politics’ but ‘about humanity.’

The beauty of Manekin’s proposal is that Jews, of all people, can relate to stories of dispersion and dispossession. To have your family torn apart in war — to struggle to maintain your culture, your dignity, your faith in God, in the face of forces over which you have no control — is something Jews should instinctively understand. Indeed, in strange ways, encountering Palestinians — the very people we are trained to see as alien — can reconnect us to the deepest parts of ourselves. Tommy Lapid, the late father of Israel’s most recent political sensation, Yair Lapid, was a hawk. But one day in 2004, watching an elderly woman in Gaza’s Rafah refugee camp searching on hands and knees for her medicines in the ruins of a house destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, he blurted out something astonishing. He said she reminded him of his Hungarian grandmother.

One hundred members of Sarah Roy’s extended family were murdered in the Holocaust. Growing up, Roy, now a Harvard researcher, knew little about her father’s experiences in the Chelmno death camp because ‘he could not speak about them without breaking down.’ It was living among Palestinians, she says, that brought her closer to her parents, not because Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians echoes the Nazi treatment of Jews — it obviously does not — but because for the first time she encountered people utterly terrified of the state that enjoyed life-and-death power over their lives."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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