News

Kerry: Don’t prevent ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria

Kerry: Don’t prevent ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents the administration's case for U.S. military action against Syria to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington September 3, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

By Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that a resolution in Congress on the use of military force in Syria should not remove the option of using U.S. ground troops, although he stressed there was “no intention” of inserting American soldiers into Syria’s civil war.

At the first public hearing in Congress on potential military action in Syria, Kerry said “it would be preferable” not to preclude the use of ground troops to preserve President Barack Obama’s options if there was a potential threat of chemical weapons falling into the hands of extremists.

“I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The circumstances where troops should be used could be “in the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interests of our allies and all of us – the British, the French and others – to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements,” he said.

Al-Nusra is an al-Qaeda affiliated group that operates in Syria.

Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel were addressing lawmakers as part of the administration’s effort to persuade Congress to back Obama’s plan to launch limited strikes on Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons last month.

One of the leading hawks on Syria in Obama’s cabinet, Kerry assured lawmakers it would be easy to word a resolution on military force to reassure Congress and the public “there’s no door open here through which someone can march in ways that the Congress doesn’t want it to, while still protecting the national security interests of the country.”

Kerry and Hagel told the committee that any military operation would be limited and specifically designed to degrade President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons capability.

Hagel added that a failure to punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons would damage U.S. national security interests and American credibility.

“A refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America’s other security commitments – including the president’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said. “The word of the United States must mean something.”

OBAMA WINS SUPPORT

As Kerry and Hagel pressed their case for limited military strikes in Syria, Obama won support for action from two top Republicans in the House of Representatives – Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

“Only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated,” Boehner told reporters. “I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action.”

Significant opposition remains in Congress, where many lawmakers, including Obama’s fellow Democrats, have said they are concerned the president’s draft resolution could be too open-ended and allow possible use of ground troops or eventual attacks on other countries.

The resolution authorizes Obama to use military force as necessary to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” to or from Syria of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.

Obama said on Saturday he would seek lawmakers’ approval for a possible military strike, slowing what had appeared to be plans for a swift action. Polls show strong public opposition to U.S. action.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday showed Obama has failed to convince most Americans of the need for a military strike in Syria. Some 56 percent of those surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria, while only 19 percent favored action, the online poll found.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Susan Heavey, Vicki Allen; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Alistair Bell and Philip Barbara)

Recent Headlines

in Music

This week’s top rock tracks

foofighters

LISTEN: This week's top rock songs, according to the latest Billboard chart.

in Music

Ozzy Osbourne to undergo surgery

British musicians Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath, arrives at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour awards 2013 at the Camden Roundhouse in north London, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

Ozzy Osbourne has cancelled his upcoming Ozzfiesta event in Mexico to undergo surgery.

in Weird

Belligerent birds chase people at Florida park

Actress Tippi Hedren, star of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds," poses with Julian Jarrold, center, director of the HBO film "The Girl," and cast member Toby Jones on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hedren's relationship with Hitchcock during the making of the film is the subject of the HBO film "The Girl."

In a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," some out-of-control birds are chasing people at a central Florida park.

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: Billy Zane mistakenly thanks One Direction fans for support

Billy Zane arrives at the Global Green USA's 12th Annual Pre-Oscar Party at the Avalon Hollywood on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Actor Billy Zane pokes fun at the fact he shares a similar name to former One Direction member Zayn Malik in a new video.

in Weird

Loose police horse briefly on patrol in downtown Cleveland

horse

The horse stayed on the street during his escape but didn't stop at red lights.