US Congress set to give green light on Syria strike

US lawmakers urge Obama to seek approval ahead of attack; UK parliament to reconvene as Australia, Canada confirm support for strike.

tomahawk missile launch 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
tomahawk missile launch 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States and its allies geared up for a probable military strike against Syria that could come within days and would be the most aggressive action by Western powers in the Middle Eastern nation's two-and-a-half-year civil war.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron ordered British parliament to reconvene on Tuesday for a crisis meeting to be held on Thursday, when members will debate and ultimately vote on an appropriate response to the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his own people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta last week.
No such crisis meeting will take place on Capitol Hill. US lawmakers, also on summer vacation, will stay home for now until the autumn session in Congress starts as scheduled on September 3.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday that American forces in the region were "ready to go" if President Barack Obama gave the order. 22 House Republicans have signed a letter to President Barack Obama demanding he seek approval from Congress before taking any military action against Syria. But by standards of partisan congressional letters past, that number is relatively modest. There are 233 Republicans in the House of Representatives.
US congressmen from across the aisle have generally been supportive of military action— when faced with inaction as the alternative.
Representative Peter King said he would like to see action, adding that, that while it would be in the interests of the president to inform Congress of his plans, doing so was not necessary.
On the Senate side, Bob Corker, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday he hoped Obama would seek congressional approval, though he also did not say it was required.
"I hope they come to Congress for an authorization at some point," Corker said. "I think you’re going to see a surgical, proportional strike against the Assad regime for what they have done, and I support that."
In Britain, opposition party leader Ed Miliband told the BBC on Tuesday that Cameron could count on his party's support if specific conditions are agreed to.
"When I saw the prime minister, I said that we, the Labour Party, would consider supporting international action," Miliband said, "but only on the basis that it was legal, that it was specifically limited to deterring the future use of chemical weapons, and that any action contemplated had clear and achievable military goals."
Meanwhile, Australia, a close ally of the United States, is due to take over the UN security council on Sunday, a role that requires it to assist council members to reach agreement. They have also endorsed a possible retaliation against Syria
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said that if it was proved the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, the world had a mandate to respond.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is also on board with a US led military strike on Syria in response to chemical weapons claims. "Both leaders agreed that significant use of chemical weapons merits a firm response from the international community in an effective and timely manner," Harper's spokesman, Andrew MacDougall said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Germany on Wednesday urged states, especially Russia, to support a British draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning attacks by Syrian President Bashar Assad and authorizing 'necessary measures' to protect civilians.
"We welcome the British initiative to get the UN Security Council to again consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We urge all members of the Security Council, in particular Russia, to seize this opportunity and contribute to a common stance by the global community against the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in Syria," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
The French parliament has announced it will hold an extraordinary session on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Syria, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said.
"The president has taken the decision to summon parliament on Wednesday to assess the situation in Syria," she said following a cabinet meeting.
President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that parliament would be informed as soon as possible about decisions on any action in Syria.