Syria crisis: Senate resolution like Goldilocks' porridge

John Kerry testifies before Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 4 September 2013 The committee voted for military action in Syria after hearing testimony from US Secretary of State John Kerry

The United States is a little further down the road towards action in Syria.

We cannot call it war, because Secretary of State John Kerry says it is not.

The Senate foreign relations committee has voted to authorise military action, by 10 votes to seven with one abstention.

If the committee mirrors its colleagues, President Barack Obama would win a narrow victory next week. But they may not be typical. It looks like it will be close.

The motion is a curious hybrid, which underscores the president's difficulty in selling his intended action. Like the porridge of the Goldilocks fairy tale, it can neither be too hot nor too cold, but just right.

The original motion was crafted to reassure those who are worried about an attack on Syria developing into something else. It limits action to an initial 60 days. It forbids combat troops on the ground.

But Senator John McCain, the doyen of hawkish use of American power, has long been worried that President Obama has done too little and has not set out how his "shot across the bows" could make a real difference in Syria.

He thinks the US should not just declare Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should go, but act to encourage that outcome.

So he added in words that stress that policy is to "reverse momentum on the battlefield", degrade President Assad's capabilities, and help the opposition, including giving them weapons.

I am not certain if, in the terms of the motion, this would only be for a couple of months.

But what senators will vote on does seem to both tie the president's hands and beef up the aims of America's action.

It could provide something for everyone. Or it could please nobody.

It is very hard to predict the outcome next week.

An ABC/BBC straw poll found that out of the 100 senators, 57 told us they had not made up their minds. Of those who talked and had made up their minds, the majority for action was 21 to 13.

That level of uncertainty should make the White House very nervous - and very active - in the next few days.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    "right thing"

    Cameron bound, given chance, to put the issue as it was LAST week to a vote. The issue as it NOW is should also be voted, members ALL present. The evidence has grown

    No-one will doubt the horror felt by Cameron, as by others; BUT despite 'beyond reasonable doubt', on Assad & credible plan, my guess is - as on saving NHS - in House & Syria we'll see a 'light-weight £no-show'

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    52 sieuarlu Very unwise. You, MK and PMK are generally pro-Israel. The US taking Assad out and letting Al Qaida jihadis in could be the worst decision for both the US and Israel. Have you guys considered all the angles [ignore Bibi detested by many Israelis].

    109 austriacus The “way to peace” is to starve both sides of the necessities for war.

    110 d_m Correct but part of the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    342 Sieuarlu

    Yes we tried that printing as much as we needed option, it didn't work too well.
    Another power the President seems to have is the power to make totally incredible decisions (as opposed to credible ones) and go slightly off his rocker, taking a fair amount of the senate and small minority (thank god) of the populace with him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    11. Curt Carpenter
    Those who usually promote Israel's safety here have taken leave of their senses. A Sunni or Al Qaida government in Damascus would be less safe for Israel than an Assad one.

    Have you considered that this could break the GOP's unanimity? An unintended [really?] consequence of this could enhance the GOP internal divisions.

    IF welcome, we need some Canadian common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    That's another power the President has, power over the US Treasury. It can print as much money as it deems fit and no one can stop it. If the Republicans actually brought the US to the point of default there'd be no choice.The President would be forced to order Treasury to print as much as it needed to pay because default is illegal and the President has the means to avoid it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    @319 (cont)
    Trust no one. US mind control can be stopped by wrapping your head in foil. Avoid processed food!"
    A dose of scepticism is healthy & reasonable wrt govt, media, big corporations, advertising etc.

    Processed food is (usually) unhealthy for you.

    Afraid I don't know anything about foil-based mind-control defence. Please enlighten us :-P

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    336. sieuarlu

    "The administration's highly reasoned argument is that we can and will deal with that if and when it's necessary.on it."

    Twaddle. That sure worked in 1965 in Viet-Nam as I recall or did you miss that colossal "it's ok, we're Americans" school of causing unintended consequences. That was the real "domino effect": one dumb decision resulting in 23 dumber ones others down the line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    325 Computer

    "America's national debt clock, and this man wants a war ?"

    Warfare brings in a lot of wealth for the right people

    Added to that oil and raw materials to be had and you've hit the jackpot. The oil pipeline through Iraq is still being guarded while the rest of the country is allowed to go to pot

    Misery of the people will be seen as unfortunate collateral damage

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    More numbers:
    Syria Syrian Islamic Liberation Front: 37,000[4] (by May 2013) -
    Syrian Islamic Front: 13,000[4] (by May 2013)
    Al-Nusra Front: 6,000[4] (by June 2013)
    Foreign Mujahideen: 10,000 (by August 2013)[22]

    Check out the Ideology of these groups.
    Still to locate numbers for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
    The Opposition is made up of many factions and many non-syrians

  • Comment number 337.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    329"U.S. will have very little control over the unintended consequences of a military strike on Syria."

    The administration's highly reasoned argument is that we can and will deal with that if and when it's necessary.The consequences of not striking are very likely to be far worse.I'm convinced.He's got my vote on it.

    You Europeans can't even claim buyer's remorse.You didn't elect him, we did

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    The media complacency in this is disgraceful. They simply parrot the "Assad is a bad person", "we have proof that he did this", "we need to punish Y for doing X to Z" straw men put forth by Obama and the We Want a War Now crowd. They never ask Obama, Kerry, Cameron just why a civil war in another country is their business or why we bother with a UN if they insist on unilateral action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    If the Rebels were supporting Palestinians to change Israeli regime then that would be in line with Mercenary Rebels being true Freedom Fighters

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    from London-based SOHR

    Govt (43.2%)
    Soldiers&security forces 24,617
    Pro-govt militia 17,031
    +Hezbollah 145

    Civilian noncombatants 35,479 (36.8%)

    Anti-govt 16,699 (17.3%)
    of which
    Syrian civilian who picked up arms against govt 12,615
    Defectors from govt 1,965
    Foreigners 2,119

    Unknown 2,460

    Total 96,431

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    307 Timmy

    "Assad, a dictator, at least kept religious differences at bay"

    As did Saddam in Iraq and now he's been killed and the country ruined the religious nutters are enoying free reign

    The same happened with Gadaffi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt.

    They won't rest until they have destabilised the whole region - unless that has been their plan all along

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    324 It seems to me if an affiliate of al Qaeda somehow managed to wrest control over Syria, not only would most of 20 million Syrians fight them, there'd be a lot of others nearby ready to fight them also like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Iran. I still don't see how a couple of thousand al Qaeda at most could hope to control an unwilling population of 20 million. That's put out to scare us off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    315. Curt Carpenter

    Yes, I agree with Cameron, too.

    But I'm starting to waver on this issue.

    When our soldiers witnessed what happened in the concentration camps, many must have said something like, "Never again. No more gassing people as if they're roaches."

    As a member of the Barely Keep the Boat Afloat Generation, I'm uncomfortable turning my back on them, our Greatest Generation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Unfortunately, the U.S. - and its 'allies' (assuming they exist) - will have very little control over the unintended consequences of a military strike on Syria. As the carnival barker says: "You pays your money and takes your chances."

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    The dictator Assad backed by Russia and Hezbollah OR a whole conglomeration of "rebels," (many coming from neighboring nations to fight their own ideological/religious war) backed by Al-Qaeda... I say we choose neither. And stop talking about Iran. After the debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of you want to invade another country? I think that's the definition of insanity...

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    319 Curt Carpenter
    I can answer fully your question but the source of the figure as stated in the article "The source is the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.”
    The SOHR are the BBC's go to guy. Note he is Pro-Opposition"
    Report is from June 2013


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