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McKeon criticizes Obama for drawing ‘red line’ on Syria

Local congressman and Armed Services Committee chairman says U.S. could become 'paper tiger'

Posted: August 29, 2013 6:02 p.m.
Updated: August 29, 2013 6:02 p.m.

Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, speaks to the press in the lobby of his Valencia office on Thursday. McKeon discussed appropriate U.S. military response to Syria's use of nerve gas on civilians. Photo by Dan Watson.

SANTA CLARITA - Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said Thursday he believes President Barack Obama may have backed both himself and the nation into a corner by threatening to take military action against Syria.

“One thing that bothers me is the president drawing a red line without knowing in his mind what he would do if they crossed that red line,” McKeon told a group of reporters following a conference call with other members of Congress and some Cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Obama was not on that call, said McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Obama’s threat of force against Syria came after accusations that the nation’s embattled regime, headed by longtime Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been accused of using chemical weapons against rebel forces in the country, most recently in an attack earlier this month.

Al-Assad has denied the use of chemical weapons and pledged to resist any foreign intervention into the Arabian country, which has been embroiled in a deadly civil war since 2011.

Inspectors from the United Nations have yet to release the findings of their investigation into attack.

An official determination on whether the al-Assad regime is at fault has not yet been released, McKeon said.
Regardless of who is at fault, McKeon called any use of chemical weapons “reprehensible.”

Though McKeon said he has not yet received the definitive proof he needs to know whether force against Syria is justified, he said failing to back up the president’s words would result in the United States becoming “a paper tiger” in the eyes of the world.

“He’s put the nation and he’s put himself in a very difficult situation,” said McKeon of Obama.

But if military action is in store, the U.S. may have to share the bulk of that responsibility. McKeon said indications are that neither the UN nor NATO will take part in any such exercise.

Parliament members in Britain, typically a staunch American ally, voted Thursday not to become involved in any military conflict against Syria.

While McKeon said he did not know what kinds of actions are being pondered against Syria, he said Obama has pledged not to put “boots on the ground.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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