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.


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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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 SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability 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 Levy BoxerFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator 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 ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia 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 AyottePoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Biden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  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 CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' 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) MenendezWhy is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates 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 CardinIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Charity game lets users bet on elections Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program 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.”