Corker: Obama's poor handling of Syria makes deal even more important

Corker’s comments were prompted by the announcement that an agreement was reached between the United States and Russia on Syria's chemical weapons. 

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On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov finalized a deal that requires Syrian President Bashar Assad to hand over his chemical weapons stockpiles to United Nations oversight. If Assad refuses to comply, U.S. and allied forces may take military action against Syria under mandate by the U.N. Security Council. 

Assad is accused of using chemical weapons against his own people, killing nearly 1,400 in one attack last month. That prompted the administration to ask for congressional approval to use military force against the Assad regime.

Corker, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks Congress should keep the threat of military force on the table.

“Absent the threat of force, it's unclear to me how Syrian compliance will be possible under the terms of any agreement,” Corker said. “I'm still reviewing the details and believe Syria's willingness to follow through is very much an open question, but I remain supportive of a strong diplomatic solution to Syria's use of chemical weapons.”

Corker supported a Senate resolution that would have authorized the president to use military force against Syria for 60 days, but when the diplomatic option of turning over chemical weapons presented itself, Obama asked congressional leaders to postpone the vote. It was unclear whether the measure would have had enough support to pass; many senators had come out against the resolution, saying it was ill-advised to get involved in another Middle Eastern conflict.

Corker has argued that it’s in U.S. national security interests to overthrow Assad’s regime, because he is being backed by Iran. There are also concerns that Hezbollah supporters or other radical Islamic groups unfriendly to the United States could take over the government if Assad is overthrown.

“I am concerned that these negotiations not be used as an opportunity to retreat from our broader national interests, but rather, to reinforce them, including support for moderate opposition forces and, most importantly, reassuring our allies of U.S. resolve to counter threats from Iran and other rogue nations,” Corker said.