Senate Foreign Relations chairman wants to try Assad for war crimes

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Sunday called on U.S. officials to pursue Syrian President Bashar Assad for war crimes.

The New Jersey Democrat said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he wants to keep a “credible threat of force” on the table, following the announcement on Saturday of an agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

“I also hope that we will pursue Assad for war crimes,” Menendez said.

Menendez called the agreement, announced by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a “diplomatic breakthrough that is full of opportunity and fraught with danger.”

Menendez said administration officials may achieve more than they envisioned through a use of force, with Assad closing “these factories of death.”

If unsuccessful, officials risk winding up “back where we started,” while giving Assad more time on the battlefield, Menendez said.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who’s been opposed military force in Syria, said on the same show that the agreement favors the Syrian dictator.

“I think Assad’s a lot stronger today than he was two weeks ago,” Blunt said.