Policy & Strategy

Pelosi: Time for ‘next step’ in Syria

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.”

{mosads}Pelosi’s comments were echoed by lawmakers from both parties
following a classified briefing for House members with Secretary of State John
Kerry, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. James Winnefeld and Deputy
Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

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.”

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