Syria crisis: Obama lines up Congress support for intervention as US Senate votes on draft plan

As President Barack Obama leaves for Europe, the White House keeps up campaign for Congressional support on action

The US Senate could vote today on whether or not to approve a plan drafted last night that would permit President Barack Obama to order a “limited and tailored” military strike against Syria.

The top members of the Foreign Relations Committee for Congress’s senior house have agreed upon the terms of the resolution, which would allow for a mission of up to 60 days with the combat use of American troops on the ground strictly prohibited.

If the president felt it necessary the proposed action could then be extended for a further 30 day period – but that would have to be ratified by another Congressional vote.

With Mr Obama in Europe for the rest of the week, his administration has been left to fight for a Syrian military intervention without him.

They face the daunting task of convincing both conservative Republicans who are demanding a fuller-scale assault in order to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad, accused of using chemical weapons on its own people, and sceptical members of the House of Representatives who are against any military action whatsoever.

Progress winning over the Senate has been strong for the administration over the past couple of days, with normally fierce foreign affairs rivals and Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham already saying they will back the president on a Syria strike.

The committee's chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, said: “We have an obligation to act, not witness and watch while a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain view.

“We have pursued a course of action that gives the president the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime's criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused.”

Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier told the committee that the White House would be happy to accept a troop restriction, saying: “There's no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity for American troops on the ground.”

The support of the Senate alone will not be enough for Mr Obama, however; if a Syrian mission is to receive full Congressional approval he will also have to convince the so-called “lower” – and Republican-dominated – House of Representatives.

The House Speaker John Boehner was joined by a number of key figures, both Republican and Democrat, who voiced their support for the president yesterday.

Mr Boehner emerged from the White House saying: “[The US has] enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behaviour. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it's necessary.”

Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, also backed action. But he acknowledged the split positions among both parties and said it was up to Obama to “make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action”.

With talks in the US marked by anti-war protests, and BBC reports of the latest opinion polls suggesting six in ten Americans are against missile strikes against the Assad regime, Mr Obama’s greatest opponent may yet be the weight of public opinion.

The administration says 1,429 people died from the attack, which included the use of the sarin nerve agent, on 21 August in a Damascus suburb. But the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-government activists in Syria, says its toll has reached 502. And while Mr Assad's government blames the incident on rebels, the UN is still to report following the work of its inspection team.

Mr Obama, who arrived in Stockholm this morning, will be hoping  the momentum of his efforts to persuade lawmakers can be maintained in his absence.

The president will travel from Sweden's capital to an economic summit in St Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday, and will be hoping that he can use the trip to Europe to gather more international support for action than he currently has. Among major allies, only France has offered publicly to join the US in a strike, although President Francois Hollande has said he will await the decision of the US Congress.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee