Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Appropriations Committee, said there is no doubt that an effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria through diplomatic and not military means is a better solution to the crisis, but he said it won’t be easy.
“We’re still a long way from having this thing settled,” Leahy said. “The Russians are never the best partners on things especially with President Putin, but it is a step.”
Leahy said any diplomatic plan must include a meaningful verification system using U.N. inspectors. He said he’s not interested in “symbolic” gestures.
“It’s going to be even more difficult because you have a civil war going on and how you get into some areas, but we do know and our intelligence people know, I think quite accurately, where the bulk of the chemical weapons are,” he said. “They are of course in areas controlled by the Syrian government so verification while difficult is not impossible.”
While Leahy never announced whether he would support limited airstrikes against Syria, he said the United States must take a clear stand on the use of chemical weapons.
“Certain weapons are so abhorrent that I think not only the United States but most of the world has to stand up. Chemical weapons is certainly one of those,” said Leahy. “There are certain things where if you have great power and great standing in the world you also have great responsibility.”
And Leahy said if the diplomatic approach is not successful, Congress needs to consider the military option.
“I think there’s a great sigh of relief in Washington that they’re trying to find something other than military,” he said. “But I think that also military is not off the table.”
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