The Republican party lawmakers have hailed President Donald Trump for his decision to carry out air strikes on Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure, while the Democrats sought action against Russia, alleging that Moscow was behind the Assad regime’s “atrocities” against his own people.
In a combined operation, the US, Britain and France today launched military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime, nearly a week after a suspected chemical attack outside the capital Damascus left over 40 people dead.
“Applaud” Trump for taking military action against the Assad regime for its latest use of chemical weapons, and for signalling his resolve to do so again if these heinous attacks continue, said Senator John McCain, Chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee.
McCain said the message to Assad must be that the cost of using chemical weapons is worse than any perceived benefit.
He said the message must demonstrate that the US and its allies have the will and capability to continue imposing those costs, and that Iran and Russia will ultimately be unsuccessful in protecting Assad from our punitive response.
“To succeed in the long run, we need a comprehensive strategy for Syria and the entire region. The President needs to lay out our goals, not just with regard to ISIS, but also the ongoing conflict in Syria and malign Russian and Iranian influence in the region,” McCain said.
“Air strikes disconnected from a broader strategy may be necessary, but they alone will not achieve US objectives in the Middle East,” he said.
However, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said that one night of air strikes was not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy. “The President must come to Congress and secure an Authorisation for Use of Military Force by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians,” she said.
“President Trump must also hold Putin accountable for his enabling of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people,” Pelosi said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the US had taken decisive action in coordination with its allies.
“We are united in our resolve that Assad’s barbaric use of chemical weapons cannot go unanswered. His regime’s unconscionable brutality against innocent civilians cannot be tolerated,” he said.
“There should be no doubt that Russia and Iran have blood on their hands, and their partnership with Assad reveals the true nature of their regimes. The United States and our allies must continue to seek ways to hold Assad’s enablers accountable,” Ryan said.
The administration is justified to take limited action in coordination with its allies to hold Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons, said Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Commitee.
“The horrifying chemical weapon attacks on innocent civilians is a war crime and Bashar al-Assad and his regime must be held accountable. However, air strikes alone will not achieve that goal,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley.
President Trump’s pledge for sustained military action demands a strategic plan to be authorised and reviewed by Congress.
“Any strategy must also address Russian President Vladimir Putin’s role in financing and enabling Assad’s regime, as Russia must be held equally accountable for these heinous crimes,” Crowley said.
Noting that Assad should know that the use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong response, House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said the US acted with its allies to respond to the use of chemical weapons in violation of international law.
“We must have a clear strategy for ending the conflict in Syria, and the Administration must articulate a clear plan to not just respond to this horrific chemical attack but to reach a lasting political solution in Syria: one that ends civilian casualties and ensures there is no permanent Iranian presence,” he said.
He added that the Congress must have a full role in reviewing and approving the strategy. “While the US and our allies must not turn a blind eye to Assad’s vile and inhumane attacks against his own citizens, military action in Syria must be measured, as part of a coherent strategy to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons without further destabilising an already-volatile region or inadvertently expanding the conflict,” said Senator Mark Warner.
“A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria,” said Senate Minority Leader, Senator Chuck Schumer.
Senator Mazie K Hirono said she was deeply concerned by the Trump’s incoherent strategy on Syria where there are layers of complexity and no easy answers.
Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said Trump has just conducted another set of unconstitutional strikes. “He does not have the power to take these actions without consulting Congress. Only Congress – not the White House – has the power to declare war,” she said. “Tonight’s air strikes are not a long term plan to resolve the Syrian crisis, and they will do little to stop a dictator like Assad from repeating his crimes against humanity,” she said.
“We need a considered, debated, real strategy to end the violence in Syria and protect innocent people from dying. These air strikes are not only unconstitutional, they are dangerously escalating a conflict that could send us into a war with multiple countries,” Jayapal said.
“This is a debate that must take place in Congress immediately, and we should be clear that the President has exceeded the authority afforded to him by the Constitution,” she added.