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US lawmakers ask Obama to seek Congressional approval on Syria

US lawmakers ask Obama to seek Congressional approval on Syria

Washington: At least 116 American lawmakers have asked President Barack Obama to seek Congressional approval for any military strike against Syria in response to alleged use of chemical weapons in the Arab country.

A letter signed by 116 Congressmen - 98 Republicans and 18 Democrats - was sent to Mr. Obama as the State Department said that it would brief the Congress in a classified setting on the intelligence related to the alleged chemical attack by the Assad regime in a Damascus suburb last week.

The lawmakers in their letter expressed disapproval at the President’s intervention in Libya without prior statutory authorisation, and said that Congress stood ready to return to session to consider the facts in Syria.

“We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorisation from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973,” said the letter spearheaded by Congressman Scott Rigell.

“If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request. We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict,” the lawmakers wrote.

In an interview to the CNN, Republican Senator Bob Corker, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Mr. Obama to call Congress back to Washington to seek approval for possible surgical, proportional military action in Syria.

“The administration has consulted and we have been aggressive, candidly, about being consulted. I do think we would be so much better off if the administration would come to Congress, call everybody back and let Congress authorize this activity,” said Mr. Corker.

In terms of the U.S. foreign policy goals in Syria, Mr. Corker said, “I don’t want what we may be getting ready to do with Syria to take us away from the stated strategy and policy of insuring that we don’t get directly involved in any kind of quagmire relative to civil war. I think what the president is proposing, a surgical, proportional strike, is called for here assuming the intelligence briefing that I get justify those actions.”

Another Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, ranking member of Senate Armed Services Committee, opposed any military intervention in Syria.

“I told the Administration that I cannot support military action in Syria unless the President presents to Congress his broader strategy in the region that addresses our national security interests and the budget to support it,” he said.

“President Obama has decimated our military beginning with his first budget four and a half years ago. He has underfunded overseas contingency operations fund, reduced base defense budget, and put into motion sequestration. Our military has no money left,” Mr. Inhofe said.

“The United States should also not consider a strategy without thoroughly consulting and heeding the advice of our partners in the region, which include Israel, Jordan and Turkey. It is vital we avoid shortsighted military action that would have little impact on the long-term trajectory of the conflict. We can’t simply launch a few missiles and hope for the best,” the Senator said.

Meanwhile, the State Department said the Obama Administration would brief the Congress this week.

“Once the intelligence community has made a formal assessment, we will provide the classified assessment to Congress and then make unclassified details available to the public. Expect that to occur sometime this week,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said.

“While I can’t speak to what intelligence related to the August 21st attack will eventually be declassified, I would caution against anyone assuming that any signals intelligence or any human intelligence will be included in that unclassified version,” she said.

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