Chairman Royce Opening Statement at Hearing on Syria

Sep 4, 2013

Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey to Testify at Hearing

Washington, D.C. – At noon today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will convene a hearing to discuss the Obama Administration’s response to the crisis in Syria, including the President’s request for an Authorization for Use of Military Force.    

The hearing is entitled “Syria:  Weighing the Obama Administration’s Response.”

Live webcast and witness testimony will be available HERE. 

Below is Chairman Royce’s opening statement as prepared for delivery at the hearing: 

“Today we meet to weigh the Obama Administration’s proposed military response to the Syrian regime’s odious use of chemical weapons.  I want to thank Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey, for appearing before us today.  And I want to express my appreciation to Committee Members, Democrats and Republicans, for attending this hearing on short notice.  The President’s decision this past weekend to seek an authorization of military force from Congress wasn’t anticipated, but it was welcomed.  

This Committee has no greater responsibility than overseeing the deployment and use of the United States Armed Forces.  Since the Administration of President John Adams, Congress has acted several times to authorize the use of military force by the President.  One thing different here is that the Administration’s proposal supports a U.S. military response against a country in civil war.  Needless to say, this complicates the consideration.   

I think we are all troubled by the unfortunate lack of international support.  Although the proposed action aims to uphold an international norm, there is no United Nations resolution of support.  Nor NATO backing. 

As we’ll hear today, the President views striking the Syrian regime as a way to strengthen deterrence against the future use of chemical weapons, by Assad, and by others.  That is an important consideration.  There are too many bad actors out there.  Countries like Iran are watching.  And yes, a credible threat is key to putting the brakes on Iran’s nuclear program.  

There are concerns.  The President promises a military operation in Syria of limited scope and duration.  But the Assad regime would have a say in what happens next.  That’d be particularly true as President Obama isn’t aiming to change the situation on the ground.  What are the chances of escalation?  Are different scenarios accounted for?  If our credibility is on the line now, as is argued, what about if Assad retaliates?  Americans are skeptical of getting near a conflict that, as one witness has noted, is fueled by “historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues.”  

The Administration’s Syria policy doesn’t build confidence.  For over two years, U.S. policy has been adrift.  Initially, the Obama Administration saw Assad as “a reformer.” Once the revolt started, it backed U.N. diplomacy, and then bet on Moscow to play a constructive role.  Predictably, this hasn’t worked.  Over a year ago, President Obama drew a “red-line” – yet only last week did the Administration begin to consult with Congress on what that means. 

Today, the House begins formal consideration of the President’s request to use military force in Syria.  It’s a cliché, but true: there are no easy answers.  Syria and much of the Middle East are a mess.  So we look forward to a through and deliberate discussion today, one reflecting the gravity of this issue. 

I’ll now turn to Ranking Member Engel, who has been ringing the alarm bell on Syria for a long, long time.”  

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