Corker Anticipates Surgical U.S. Response to Likely Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria, Does Not Want Action to Upset Overall Strategy to Strengthen Moderate Opposition
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - In an interview for Fox News Sunday that was taped on Saturday but aired today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, anticipated a surgical U.S. response to the likely confirmation of the recent chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime in Syria, expecting President Obama to seek authorization from Congress. But Corker cautioned against any such action upsetting an overall strategy to strengthen vetted, moderate opposition forces who could lead Syria after Assad.
Highlights from the interview, which also included discussion of the crisis in Egypt and congressional oversight of NSA surveillance programs, are included below.
“I think we will respond in a surgical way. And I hope the president, as soon as we get back to Washington, will ask for authorization from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way, something that gets [the Assad regime’s] attention, that causes them to understand that we are not going to put up with this kind of activity.”
“At the same time, I hope it's the kind of action that doesn't move us away from the policy we have right now where we want to see the Syrian opposition group taking the lead on the ground. So I hope we'll move our training up…And I don’t want our actions that are in response to this chemical warfare to alter that.”
“But obviously, not boots on the ground. I do think we will take action.”
“Look, at the end of the day, we’ve had the same kind of relationship with the Egyptian military for about 35 years. And I do think it's time for us to recalibrate it, as I’ve said many times.”
“No doubt, there will be some suspensions [of U.S. aid to Egypt], but we’re going to keep that relationship. It is in our national interests…It’s important to Americans. It’s important for us to have security in that region.”
“I wrote a letter this week to the president, asked that the head of [the NSA] come in and brief folks from top to bottom, to explain every program that’s underway, understand that, so we can understand its intent and to understand how appropriate oversight is taking place.”
“Look, I appreciate efforts to keep Americans secure. At the same time…[t]he American people want to know that those of us who are elected…understand fully what's happening here. I don't think we do.”
“It’s our responsibility to know those things, to ensure they’re in balance. And I hope as soon as we get back, there will be a full briefing from top to bottom so that can happen.”