Begich skeptical of Syrian strikes without congressional assent

Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria.

Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria. From March 6 to July 23, a battle between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian government was fought for control over the city of Azaz, north of Aleppo, during the Syrian civil war.
(Photo by Christiaan Triebert/Flickr Creative Commons)

The United States Sixth Fleet is sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Fifth Fleet is in nearby Bahrain. The Pentagon is mobilizing forces for long-range bombings or cruise missile strikes.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the U.S. government is holding the government of Bashar al-Assad responsible for the chemical attack last week.

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children, and innocent bystanders by chemical weddings, is a moral obscenity,” he said in the State Department briefing room. “By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

President Barack Obama has long said a chemical attack would be a red line. This is reportedly the second such attack, but much larger than the previous.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich said he’s skeptical of engaging.

“They cannot go down this path without consultation and engagement with the Congress,” he said Tuesday on the public radio program “Talk of Alaska.”

But that may happen. Strikes could begin any day – and Congress is not due back in Washington until September 9th. Begich said he can’t support the actions if the United States acts alone.

British and French leaders have indicated they’re willing to support the military strikes.

“It can’t be the U.S. carrying the weight of the world all the time. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and others in that region need to step up to the plate,” Begich said. “It means other countries around the globe, and this includes people like Russia and China, they need to step up, and quit playing the politics of the Middle East for leverage for their own political and economic purposes.”

Russia and China will not side with the United States in the conflict. Russia has proven to be Syria’s largest backer. Both Moscow and Beijing are protecting Damascus on the United Nations Security Council.

Neither of the Republicans in the delegation would talk about the issue. A spokesman for Representative Don Young said he’s opposed to military intervention – that the country isn’t ready for another war after fighting two for a dozen years. He also wants the president to seek approval from Congress. Young voted for the 2002 Iraq War Resolution.

Senator Lisa Murkowski declined several requests for comment.

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