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Senate panel backs US strike on Syria amid deep reluctance & McCain caught playing poker on phone during hearing

Senate Panel Backs U.S. Strike on Syria amid Deep Reluctance

Al Manar

The Senate authorized on Wednesday a punitive strike on Syria amid deep reluctance in the House, where lawmakers questioned whether the U.S. was in danger of being drawn into another Middle East warKerry.

US President Barack Obama, who announced Saturday that he would seek legislative backing for military action in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, sought to raise the pressure on Congress as well as U.S. allies, warning that their reputations were at stake.

“My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility’s on the line. And America and Congress’ credibility’s on the line,” Obama said during a visit to Stockholm.

On a 10-7 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution to authorize U.S. missile strikes. The committee chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said Congress should “make sure Assad understands he can’t just wait us out, use chemical weapons and face no consequences.”

Several senators from both parties, including opponents of the resolution, predicted the Senate would approve it next week. Yet the Senate’s conflicted views were clear in the vote, which saw Democrats and Republicans on each side.

Obama, meanwhile, insisted he was not alone in demanding a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21, but was joined by nations that signed treaties banning chemical weapons and by Congress, which ratified them. “I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line” he said. “That wasn’t something I just kind of made up.”

The Senate committee’s resolution limits any U.S. mission to 90 days and prohibits the use of ground troops.

The resolution was amended to include language from McCain and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) directing that the strike be used to “change the momentum on the battlefield” away from the Syrian government, which has had the edge for much of this year. The amendment said that it was necessary to ‘pressure’ Assad to negotiate an end to the war.

The difficulty of winning votes in the House — particularly among majority Republicans — was clear at the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced mostly skeptical questions about their confidence in the intelligence about the use of chemical weapons, the nature of the Syrian opposition and the consequences of a strike.

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McCain Caught Playing Poker on Smartphone During Syria Hearing: VIDEO

Al Ahed news

Senator John McCain, a longtime advocate for forceful military intervention in Syria, was caught playing poker on his smartphone Tuesday as top administration officials testified at one of the most pivotal congressional hearings of the year.

McCain is hardly the only US lawmaker ever to seek a diversion from what can be hours of legislative debate on Capitol Hill.

But the photographic evidence of McCain making poker bets on his iPhone during the hearing itself offered a startling counterweight to the seriousness in Washington as senators debated whether to sign on to President Barack Obama’s plan to bomb Syria for chemical weapons use.

“Scandal!” McCain tweeted sarcastically after an alert Washington Post photographer posted the photo that rapidly made the rounds on Twitter.
“Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!” he quipped.

McCain explained to the CNN why he was playing poker during the debate. Here is the video:

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