June 16th, 2013
11:09 AM ET
10 years ago

Menendez: Time to 'tip the scales' in Syria

(CNN) – The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday President Barack Obama was making a sound call in his decision to provide military support to Syrian rebels and suggested such support should include taking out Syrian government airstrips.

"The reality is, we need to tip the scales, not simply to nudge them," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said on CNN's "State of the Union," adding that any involvement would best be done with U.S. partners in Europe and in the Gulf region.

"A lot of what we can see done can be done through our allies," he said.

While the Obama administration has not detailed what military support it plans to give the rebels, Washington officials have told CNN that support includes arms, ammunition, and possibly anti-tank weapons.

Obama's pledge Saturday to sanction Syria and support its rebels came in a conference call with European leaders about Damascus' chemical warfare.

His talk with the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and Germany came before next week's Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland. The five leaders discussed "ways to support a political transition to end the conflict" in Syria, the White House said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, however, said the president's decision is "a day late and a dollar short."

"What is the US-National interest there and what are our objectives? And the administration has turned it all on the question on the use of chemical weapons against some of the rebels, but I'm not sure that that's the justification for US military action," he told CNN. "It may well be that the time has passed when we can be effective. So we'll have to see what happens. It's a tough problem, admittedly."

A major concern is the fact that the Syrian opposition includes some extremist elements and militants with pro-al Qaeda sympathies.

But Menendez said intelligence officials have been able to isolate the "vetted, moderate elements" among the rebel forces, and last month the foreign relations committee approved a measure calling to arm those elements.

Another possibility includes "ripping up airfields so that (President Bashar al-Assad's) air force cannot take off."

"That's an example of a limited action that ultimately can produce big benefits," the senator told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

"You can't just simply send them a peashooter against a blunderbuss," he added. "Time is not on our side, and our vital national security interests will not be pursued."

- CNN's Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Bob Menendez • Senate • Syria • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. CB FL

    When will these people learn we are not the world police.

    June 16, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. Thomas

    This is News

    Addressing a rally in support of the Syrian opposition on Saturday, Mr Morsi said that Syria's embassy in Cairo would be shut and Egypt's representative withdrawn from Damascus.

    He also called on the international community to impose a no-fly zone over the country.

    June 16, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. MAC

    Senator Menendez did not give specifics on how to tip th scales in Syria, giving the rebels heavy weapons and missles would be foolish since they could come back and be used on American Troops or even American civilians. He also commented on Immigration Reform needing to pass the way the Senate and democrats want it written. Americans should not trust this bill the way it is written as it will not prevent the USA from having to deal with another 11 to 20 million more illegal immigrants in another decade. The government and especially the executive branch cannot be trusted to really secure the border or enforce E-Verify.

    June 16, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. Pete

    Maybe Sen.Menendez has a point even against my resisting giving arms to Syrian rebels against Assad,you might think one thing...Maybe just maybe you might get Al Qaeda,terrorists to look at us in a more favorable light and maybe in the future if this worked out maybe again just maybe their hate for us may give way to a more compatible existence in the future...Just wishful thinking but I can still make wishes to help America something republicans fail to do,right!!

    June 16, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. rs

    Does anyone of any political stripe really believe that Russia won't match in dollars or bullets whatever the U.S. gives the rebels?

    June 16, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |