US President Barack Obama meets with Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner and National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the White House in Washington on Tuesday.© AFP 2013/ Jim Watson
Syrian President Bashar Assad is being accused of using chemical weapons against his own people on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21.© RIA Novosti. Sergey Guneev
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WASHINGTON, September 3 (RIA Novosti) – Senior US lawmakers from both political parties said Tuesday that they will support President Barack Obama’s push for military action against Syria as retaliation for a chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“I’m going to support the president’s call for action,” the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, the leader of the Republican majority in the House and a consistent Obama antagonist in Congress, said following a meeting with the American president.
The No. 2 Republican in the House, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, also said he plans to vote in favor of a strike on Syria.
“America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States,” Cantor said in a statement.
Obama met with Boehner and other senior members of Congress in Washington on Tuesday as he seeks to shore up Congressional support for a military strike on Syria as a response to the apparent use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in the Damascus suburbs that the White House accuses the Assad government of carrying out.
The lobbying effort comes amid flagging support from a war-weary American public for US military involvement in Syria’s civil war, according to opinion polls, and Obama announced Saturday that despite his conviction that Assad was to blame for the attack, he would seek approval from Congress for intervention in the conflict.
Obama stressed Tuesday, however, that US involvement in Syria’s civil war would not result in an extended military commitment like American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have dragged on for more than a decade.
“The key point that I want to emphasize to the American people: The military plan that has been developed by the joint chiefs and that I believe is appropriate is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan,” Obama said prior to the meeting at The White House.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, also said Tuesday that she supports Obama’s plan to strike Syrian targets.
“I believe the American people need to hear more about the intelligence that supports this action. And that is the responsibility for this chemical weapons use is clear at the feet of Assad,” Pelosi said, The Washington Post reported.
The meeting with congressional leaders came ahead of scheduled appearance by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel before the Senate Foreign Relations later Tuesday to discuss possible military action in Syria.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also set to appear before the committee Tuesday.
Tuesday’s White House meeting and Senate hearing also come ahead of Obama’s planned trip to St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit later this week.
Russia has insisted since the start of the conflict in Syria two years ago that any outside intervention in the conflict would be permissible only if approved by the UN Security Council. Moscow has faced scathing US criticism for blocking, together with China, US-led efforts to win UN backing for an intervention.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Saturday described US arguments that Assad’s forces were behind the apparent use of chemical weapons as “utter nonsense” and said Moscow was “sure” they were used by rebel forces as a “provocation” to draw the United States into the Syrian conflict.
Putin on Monday said he supported facilitating an urgent dialogue between Russian and US lawmakers about the Syria situation. The idea was proposed by the speakers of Russia’s two houses of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko and Sergei Naryshkin.
“I will do everything I can to support you,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript of the meeting, adding that he would speak to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the initiative.
Matviyenko said Tuesday that she had reached out to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, to arrange possible talks between the two countries’ lawmakers.
“It is imperative to reject hasty decisions and soberly assess the destructive consequences of a possible attack, the most horrific of which are the death of thousands and thousands of civilians, including women and children,” Matviyenko said in a letter to Reid obtained by RIA Novosti.
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