Islamist militants will gain the upper hand in Syria if the United States doesn't strike, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.
“I believe that those men in those videos are disadvantaged by an American response to the chemical weapons use because it, in fact, empowers the moderate opposition,” Kerry said. “I guarantee you, if we turn our backs today, the picture we all saw in the paper today and the media of those people being shot, that will take place more because more extremists will be attracted to this because they will be funded as the only alternative in order to take on Assad.”
Kerry said there are 11 “really bad” opposition groups in Syria, but that the United States has a “very careful vetting process” for determining the “moderate opposition” that it aids.
The secretary of State faced some of his toughest questioning on that issue during appearances before the House and Senate this week.
“My concern is, any strike against this regime, as bad as it is, will empower these radical Islamists, these extremists,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said at Wednesday's Foreign Affairs panel hearing. “So my greatest concern when we look at Syria is who is gonna fill the vacuum when the Assad regime falls, which we know that it will?”
Kerry's appearance on the liberal show aimed to shore up support for the authorization to use force in Syria, which faces an uphill battle in the House.
While Republicans make up 80 of the 110 House members leaning towards voting “no,” according to The Hill's latest whip count, 30 are Democrats. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is even rallying support against the measure: His online petition had garnered more than 50,000 signatures as of Thursday evening.