Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized that a U.S. strike should not be directed at altering the dynamic of Syria’s larger civil war.
“I think it should be surgical. It should be proportional. It should be in response to what’s happened with the chemicals,” Corker said in an NBC interview. “But the fact is, I don’t want us to get involved in such a way that we change that dynamic on the ground.” The senator said he thought the administration’s response to the attack was “imminent.”
The Obama administration toughened its criticism of Syria's alleged chemical weapons use, with Secretary of State John Kerry cutting his vacation short to address the crisis as the U.S. considers possible military actions.
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House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said he had been in touch with the White House. In a statement, Boehner echoed concerns expressed by lawmakers from both parties that the administration further consult Congress before taking action.
The administration has said that it will follow international law in shaping its response. Authorization for the use of force against another nation normally comes only from the U.N. Security Council — where Russia and China have vetoed previous resolutions against Assad — or in a NATO operation similar to the one launched in the former Yugoslavia in 1999, without a U.N. mandate.
But much of international law is untested, and administration lawyers are also examining possible legal justifications based on a violation of international prohibitions on chemical weapons use, or on an appeal for assistance from a neighboring nation such as Turkey.
Britain, France and Turkey have said that they would support action if the use of chemical weapons was confirmed, but a clear-cut case is also likely to make approval easier for allies such as Germany, which disagreed with NATO’s 2011 operation in Libya despite the existence of a U.N. resolution.
“The use of chemical weapons would be a crime against civilization,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday. “The international community must act should the use of such weapons be confirmed.”
Consultations on Syria have been ongoing at the ambassadorial level at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where a meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. The Arab League, which approved the Libya operation, is also due to meet this week to discuss Syria.
Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.