WASHINGTON, September 4 (RIA Novosti) – The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Wednesday to give President Barack Obama the authority to use military force against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
The 10-7 vote, which permits Obama to order a limited military strike against Syria that would not exceed 90 days and would involve no American troops on the ground for combat operations, has to be approved by the full Senate when it reconvenes next week, and by the 435-member House of Representatives before it can be sent to Obama for his signature.
The vote marked the first time that US lawmakers have voted to authorize the use of military force since October 2002, when they gave President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee was holding a hearing on Wednesday on a resolution authorizing military force against Syria, similar to a hearing held Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at both hearings.
As Kerry delivered his testimony Wednesday before the House committee, members of the anti-war group Code Pink sitting behind him held up their red-dyed hands in protest at the proposed US military action in Syria. Members of the same group interrupted Kerry’s testimony Tuesday before the Senate committee by shouting.
At a news conference earlier Wednesday with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm, Obama was asked if he would launch an attack against Syria even if Congress does not authorize force.
“I believe that Congress will approve it,” Obama said.
A US intelligence report claims that the Assad regime was behind a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21 that Washington says left more than 1,400 people dead.