WASHINGTON - West Virginia's senior senator, Jay Rockefeller, announced Wednesday he agrees with efforts to put an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons capabilities through international intervention short of military strikes.
Rockefeller, D- W.Va., said however the U.S. must be ready to move forward with limited military strikes if other efforts fail and those strikes must have a specific goal- preventing the use of chemical weapons.
"I understand and agree with the American people's deep reluctance to support military action in Syria after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the intelligence is clear: the Assad regime used chemical weapons to murder a large number of innocent Syrian civilians, which is a grave violation of longstanding international law and a meaningful threat to core U.S. national security interests," he said in a press release.
"We cannot stand by and allow this atrocity - and this threat - to pass without consequence. We must make it clear to Syria, and to any other rogue regime that might consider following in Syria's heinous footsteps, that the use of chemical weapons will bring forceful repercussions.
"Given the developments of the last two days, I am in agreement with the Administration efforts to put an end to Assad's chemical weapons capabilities through international intervention short of military strikes," Rockefeller said.
Rockefeller said for now the United States should pursue this possible diplomatic path. However, he said it was the United States' threat of force that prompted Russia and Syria to move toward a diplomatic solution.
Senator Rockefeller's Input
*?U.S. Sen Jay Rockefeller said he agrees with efforts to put an end to Assad's chemical weapons capabilities through international intervention short of military strikes.
*?However, he said the U.S. must be ready to move forward with limited military strikes if other efforts fail.
*?Rockefeller said any strike must focus on preventing the use of chemical weapons.
He said he does not think they will follow through unless the U.S. maintains pressure.
"Now, we cannot allow the Assad regime to delay. Assad must take immediate tangible steps to relinquish his control of Syria's chemical weapons, and he must agree to a rigorous and comprehensive system for securing, identifying and dismantling those weapons," Rockefeller said.
"Moreover, we cannot accept any interference with- or threats to the safety of- the international inspectors who would undertake this important mission."
Rockefeller said a plan must be in place should the diplomatic solution falter.
"We must not waver in our resolve that the United States cannot and will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons," he said. "Preventing Assad's use of chemical weapons unquestionably serves a core national security interest of the United States now and in the future- deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons everywhere so as to diminish the likelihood of a chemical attack against Americans anywhere.
"This fundamental U.S. interest is the reason why I believe we must be prepared to move forward with a limited military strike unless Assad fully gives up control of his chemical weapons in the near term."
Rockefeller said he would be opposed to sending troops to Syria.
"I do not support putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, and I do not support any other form of U.S. military intervention or so-called 'nation-building' that could drag the United States into the intractable, centuries-old sectarian turmoil in the Middle East," he said.
"Instead, any military action we consider in Syria must be narrowly focused on achieving one specific goal: preventing the use of chemical weapons. We must send a clear message to those who would consider developing, proliferating or employing these weapons of mass destruction in the future - the United States will not tolerate it."