House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that it was time for the United States to “take it to the next step” in Syria in response to possible chemical weapons use, although she said that did not include putting “troops on the ground.”
“I myself think that we have tolerated for too long all of the assaults on the Syrian people made by its own government,” Pelosi told reporters. “I think we have to take it to the next step. That does not mean troops on the ground."
In the wake of the news Thursday that the White House believes Syrian President Bashar Assad might have crossed President Obama’s “red line,” lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to get more involved in Syria, including providing arms to rebel groups, and establishing safe havens and a no-fly zone.
House members leaving the briefing said that Kerry had discussed the potential steps the U.S. could take.
“The secretary laid out what some of those options would be,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). “It’s everything from diplomatic opposition to Assad, to supporting refugees, to cash for groups, to weapons for groups, to a no fly zone — all of those are on the table.”
The White House said Friday that it’s still trying to corroborate the evidence that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons and crossed the red line set by the president.
Lawmakers said that if the red line was crossed, there would be support for taking additional military steps, although there were some divisions over what those should be.
“Under NATO, likely led by Turkey, we could effectively create the no-fly zones, no-chemical weapons zones, no-troops zones,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said.
Sherman, however, said that a no-fly zone was difficult, because the Syrian air defenses were much more advanced than what was taken out in Libya in 2011.
“A no-fly zone is not a no casualties option,” he said.
There are also still concerns about what happens if Assad were to lose control, both in terms of securing the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles and in who would run the country.
“Syria is very complicated,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “Either outcome is not a good one: Either you've got a puppet of Iran in power, or you’ve got a Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda force trying to fill the vacuum, like we've seen in Egypt and Libya.”