Armed Services leaders don’t endorse Syria military strike

The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees aren’t yet endorsing a U.S. military strike in Syria after President Obama said Saturday that he would seek congressional authorization.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement authorizing the use of force “should be contingent on the president setting clear military objectives that can meet articulated policy goals, including degrading any party's ability to use these weapons again.”

“The coming days will determine if such a military operation can be identified,” McKeon said. “I look forward to the debate."

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that the president “made a strong case” on Saturday. But he also suggested it was important that Obama seek support from other countries, including Arab nations, something that has not yet materialized.

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Levin also urged Obama to take a different step and provide arms to vetted Syrian rebel groups, such as anti-tank weapons, something the administration has not suggested its considering after last week’s chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs.

Gaining the support of the Armed Services leaders will be a key step for the Obama administration as it seeks to win congressional approval of a military strike in response to last week's chemical attack the administration says was carried out by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

While neither Levin nor McKeon indicated they were opposed to a strike Saturday, the lawmakers also didn’t say they thought it was the best course of action.

Both also said they supported Obama’s plan to seek congressional approval before taking action in Syria.

Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s biggest defense hawks, said in a statement Saturday they could not support Obama’s plan for “isolated military strikes in Syria” if it was not part of a strategy to “change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the president's stated goal of Assad's removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict.”