Lawmakers dread Syria inspections

Lawmakers on Wednesday raised concerns that a long, complicated effort to secure Syria’s chemical weapons could draw the U.S. into a nightmarish inspection process while Syria is engaged in a brutal civil war.

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While they said avoiding U.S. military action is a positive development, some see in Syria a repeat of the drawn-out series of weapons inspections in the 12 years between the first and second Gulf Wars.

“The complexities of enforcing it are going to be massive,” said Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Corker pressed as reelection challenges mount MORE (Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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In Iraq, the U.S. faced a recalcitrant dictator in Saddam Hussein who the Bush administration said obstructed efforts to inspect his suspected weapons supplies. Some see a parallel with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government has pledged to turn over its chemical weapons.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRhode Island announces plan to pay DACA renewal fee for every 'Dreamer' in state Mich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead NAACP sues Trump for ending DACA MORE (R-Ala.) noted that Hussein agreed to United Nations resolutions to destroy his chemical weapons after the first Gulf War. But he repeatedly broke those commitments, which was one factor in the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade. 

“If we were to participate in the destruction of chemical weapons, we should be on guard that it can lead you into deeper involvement,” Sessions said.

Others argue that comparing Syrian diplomacy to Iraq is inaccurate because the U.S. isn’t contemplating putting boots on the ground and it knows the weapons are there.

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job Pelosi's chief of staff stepping down Time is now to address infrastructure needs MORE (D-Calif.), who voted against authorizing military force in Iraq but supported Syria action, said she saw no connection between the two conflicts.

“This has not even one scintilla of comparison,” Boxer told The Hill. “In Iraq, there were no weapons. In Syria … there’s proof they’ve been used.” 

Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissFormer GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party GOP hopefuls crowd Georgia special race MORE (R-Ga.) said that Iraq and Syria were unrelated so long as “the president is serious about ‘no boots on the ground.’ ”

No one expects an easy task even if an agreement is reached to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.

The details of a diplomatic resolution are far from finalized, and many are skeptical a United Nations Security Council measure will ever get off the ground.

Even if a resolution is agreed to, the process of getting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and verifying them will be lengthy and complicated.

Lawmakers expected that the process would be carried out through the United Nations, and the U.S. would play a role in a U.N. coalition.

“How can the international community under the umbrella of the U.N. execute this in a way that actually will work?” Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteStale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Trump voter fraud commission sets first meeting outside DC RNC chair warns: Republicans who refused to back Trump offer 'cautionary tale' MORE (R-N.H.) said. “It’s a very big concern I have, absolutely.”

Chambliss said the timetable of the operation was still not clear, but it could stretch out to six months or a year.

“Obviously, you’re not doing 30 days,” he said.

What should happen if diplomacy fails remains divisive?

Russia’s surprise proposal has indefinitely delayed a vote in Congress on using military force in Syria.

Backers of military action say that the threat of force helped spur the diplomatic gesture from Russia and Syria, and they contend Congress should keep up the pressure. A group of lawmakers began drafting an alternative resolution after Russia made its proposal Monday.

But opponents of military action say that adding diplomatic language won’t change their minds.

“I do not intend to vote to authorize military force against Syria because I don’t believe it would further the national security interests of the United States,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE (R-Texas) said Tuesday when asked about the alternate resolution.

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which passed the resolution last week to authorize force, held separate meetings on Wednesday to map out the next steps forward.

Both Corker and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Poll finds little support for Menendez reelection Judge tells Menendez lawyer to 'shut up' MORE (D-N.J.) indicated no vote was forthcoming in the next week at least. Menendez said the situation remained too fluid even to draft a new resolution.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinTrump officials brief lawmakers on North Korea Blackwater founder calls for military contractors in Afghanistan Tillerson moves to eliminate special envoy posts at State Dept.: report MORE (D-Md.), who voted for the use-of-force authorization, said that pursuing diplomacy could help secure undecided votes on military action should the diplomatic effort fail.

“I think it gives us a way of getting a stronger vote, yes,” Cardin said. “Because it demonstrates that what we said in our resolution about diplomacy going first has in fact taken place.”