North Coast congressmen said they were pleased Tuesday night that President Barack Obama chose to delay a vote on a military strike in Syria, and expressed cautious optimism that a diplomatic solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin would succeed.
“I understand the skepticism that some are voicing ... but this does not necessarily require some sudden commitment to humanity from the Russians,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. “They are uniquely affected if something goes wrong in Syria with these chemical weapons ... I think there is some cold-blooded self-interest in this.”
Huffman is co-sponsoring a resolution urging the immediate establishment of a Syrian war crimes tribunal, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey on Monday.
The resolution asks the White House to work the United Nations to create a special court, which would investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, whether committed by officials of the Syrian government or members of other groups involved in civil war in Syria.
“I am for getting these weapons into international custody and destroying them. But I don’t think anyone should get away with killing children with chemical weapons, and we can do that without jumping right to military force,” Huffman said.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who serves on the Intelligence Committee, said he does not support a military strike at this time. He said he was pleased that Obama delayed the vote until there’s a chance to see whether the proposal from Russia will succeed.
“From the intelligence that I’ve seen, I believe that the Syrian government is responsible for using chemical weapons,” Thompson said. “The chemical weapons were launched from Syrian government-controlled portions of Damascus into areas of Damascus that are not controlled by the Syrian government.”
Thompson said he could not elaborate further on whether there was more evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched chemical weapons against his people.
Representatives were not given a specific timeline for the plan that involves Syria handing over its chemical weapons, but they have been told the vote in Congress over the use of force in Syria would be postponed for about a week, Huffman said.
In the meantime, Huffman hopes Congress can tackle other important matters that have been put on hold.
“This is a Congress that has not done a great job of getting things done, and we now are challenged to do really big and important things on deadline with this huge matter hanging unresolved,” Huffman said.