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U.S. debates position on Syria

September 6, 2013

Four cruise missile destroyers sit in the Mediterranean Sea poised to strike as the United States Congress debates authorizing military action against Syria. The strike would be a punitive response to the alleged use of Sarin nerve gas by the Assad Regime on Aug. 21 in Damascus. Last year, President Obama expressed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would constitute a “red line” that would “change the calculus” in regards to U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

After making speeches about the need for an international response, President Obama found Russia and China willing to block all resolutions concerning military action in Syria. Then the administration’s hopes of an international coalition fragmented when the British Parliament voted against authorizing potential military action. Since then, he has been trying to build a coalition of other partner nations willing to support action.

What had seemed to be an impending attack against Syria is now delayed. Obama decided on Saturday to ask for congressional approval for a military strike. A couple of days ago, all four major congressional leaders came out in support of action against Syria. The administration is confident that Congress will approve action. However, in congress there are Democrats and Republicans who are against military action. Potential Republican Presidential Candidates like Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and now Marco Rubio are standing in opposition to the strike. For the Democrats, House Representatives John Garamendi, Rick Nolan and Eric Swalwell have all expressed concerns that strikes would lead to greater involvement.

During this deadlock, U.N. inspectors are analyzing samples taken from Damascus. Those test results may have a significant effect on the international reception towards military action. Regardless, the Syrian government continues to deny the use of chemical weapons. Their claim is that the rebels were the ones who used them.

All of the talk of a Middle Eastern country, chemical weapons, coalitions and U.N. resolutions and inspectors has led to some commentators to compare Syria to Iraq in 2003. The administration has directly spoken out against this association and pointed out that Syria would be a limited operation like Libya. The American public does seem to be agreeable to any action, limited or not. According to polling done by ABC News and the Washington Post, 59 percent of Americans oppose unilateral strikes against Syria. If strikes were to be done with allies, it is still viewed unfavorable at 51 percent opposed. With a 3.5 percent sample error margin, this means that the American people are 50/50 on it.

While those destroyers sit and the U.N. analyzes, the United States is debating what to do. Obama believes in limited strikes, but the American people don’t seem to be supporting him. The question remains if congress will support action and will the United States have allies by our side if we do act.

Elisha French
Political Editor

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