CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller said Thursday that he understands the "deep reluctance to support military action in Syria" after United States soldiers have been involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for more than 10 years."But the intelligence is clear: the Assad regime used chemical weapons to murder a large number of innocent Syrian civilians, which is a grave violation of longstanding international law and a meaningful threat to core U.S. national security interests," Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement."We cannot stand by and allow this atrocity -- and this threat -- to pass without consequence. We must make it clear to Syria, and to any other rogue regime that might consider following in Syria's heinous footsteps, that the use of chemical weapons will bring forceful repercussions."Intense debate was sparked earlier this month when Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry indicated a military attack, with missiles rather than ground troops, could be launched within a week if Syria did not voluntarily give up those weapons.Many senators and a majority of House of Representatives members quickly indicated they were unlikely to endorse those attacks.On Monday, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., introduced the Chemical Weapons Control and Accountability Resolution of 2013 to allow 45 days for diplomacy with Syria before any other actions are taken.Reps. David B. McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, both R-W.Va., indicated reluctance to back military action, while Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., indicated support for it.In recent days, Russia and other countries have been urging Syria to give up its chemical weapons."Given the developments of the last two days," Rockefeller said, "I am in agreement with the administration's efforts to put an end to Assad's chemical weapons capabilities through international intervention short of military strikes. For the time being, we should pursue this possible diplomatic path."
Rockefeller believes the White House plan to use force was the driving factor leading Russia to urge Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons.But Rockefeller wants quick action."We cannot allow the Assad regime to delay," he stated Monday. "Assad must take immediate tangible steps to relinquish his control of Syria's chemical weapons, and he must agree to a rigorous and comprehensive system for securing, identifying and dismantling those weapons."Rockefeller believes the threat of using military strength should not be withdrawn."If the effort for an international diplomatic solution falters, we must be prepared to go further," Rockefeller stated. "We must be prepared to move forward with a limited military strike unless Assad fully gives up control of his chemical weapons in the near term."Like Obama, Rockefeller said he opposes putting American troops on the ground in Syria.
Rockefeller also opposed "any other form of U.S. military intervention or so-called 'nation-building' that could drag the United States into the intractable, centuries-old sectarian turmoil in the Middle East."Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.