Corker anticipates Syria strike, but so far has only heard 'bluster' from White House

Corker anticipates Syria strike, but so far has only heard 'bluster' from White House
© Greg Nash

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday he thinks the United States will strike Syria in response to the latest chemical attack, but he hasn’t heard anything concrete from the White House.

Asked by The Hill if he’s gotten any updates from the administration in the last day about possible action in Syria, Corker shook his head and said, “Bluster so far.”

“I haven’t seen any action,” he told reporters.

Pressed on if that means he thinks the United States won’t strike, Corker said, “I think we will strike.”

“I do think we’ll strike, but so far it’s talk,” he continued.

On Saturday, an apparent chemical weapons attack struck the Damascus suburb of Douma, killing more than 40 people and injuring hundreds. Pictures and videos of dead and dying civilians prompted international outrage, with officials saying it bears the hallmarks of previous chemical attacks linked to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Monday morning, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE said he would decide how to respond in “24 to 48 hours.”

“We'll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting Monday. “We cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it.”

He met with his national security team Monday evening, but has not announced a course of action.

Almost exactly a year ago, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to a sarin gas attack blamed on Assad.

Following the latest chemical attack, some lawmakers have encouraged Trump to respond similarly to last year.

But some lawmakers continue to question whether Trump has the legal authority to conduct such a strike.

On Tuesday, Corker, who has been drafting a new war authorization specific to terrorist groups, said he thinks Trump has the authority for a “surgical” strike on Syria, but that anything more would require congressional authorization.

“In this particular case, again, I think the authority would be preventing a humanitarian crisis,” he said. “I think for a surgical strike they easily have the authority to do it.”

He stressed that the authorization for the use of military force he is set to unveil “has nothing to do with” the Syrian conflict.

“If they come to us and want to have some prolonged engagement with Syria, then they certainly do not have the authorities for that kind of action, but I don’t get any sense they have any desire for that kind of authority, either,” he said.