Manchin, Heitkamp Float Alternative Syria Resolution
Posted at 8:51 a.m. on Sept. 6, 2013
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., announced Thursday he could not support the bipartisan but perhaps unpassable Senate Foreign Relations language on Syria and instead is now floating a proposal of his own with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., that would give the Syrian regime 45 days to agree to give up its chemical weapons.
The Manchin-Heitkamp draft resolution, obtained by Roll Call, would give Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad 45 days to make Syria a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and take “concrete steps” to comply with the convention, though the draft does not define what that would mean. The resolution also states that failure to comply with the convention within that 45-day period “clearly demonstrates a disregard of international norms on the use of chemical weapons” even though the Obama administration already has said that the killing of 1,429 in a recent chemical attack represents “a clear violation of international norms.”
Under this new proposal, failure of the Syrian regime to sign onto the treaty would lead to “all elements of national power” being considered by the U.S. government. The current language approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — upon which neither Manchin nor Heitkamp sit — would authorize “limited and tailored” use of American armed forces in response to what top administration officials have said was a use of massive chemical weapons by the Syrian regime on its own people.
It’s unclear to whom the Manchin-Heitkamp language as drafted would appeal, given that it implies that only after Syria fails to sign onto a treaty would it be in violation of international norms on chemical weapons and leaves a broader range of possibilities for American military response after the 45-day period. Many anti-war liberals, to whom a delayed response might appeal, likely would want as narrow language as possible to rule out the potential for boots on the ground. The Manchin-Heitkamp resolution also requires President Barack Obama to submit to Congress a “long-term strategy for Syria” within 45 days of the resolution’s enactment.
Full summary of the draft follows:
Statement of Policy. It is the policy of the United States that-
The Government of Syria must become a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and take concrete steps to comply with the terms and conditions of the Convention;
The failure by the government of Bashar al-Assad to sign and comply with the Convention clearly demonstrates a disregard of international norms on the use of chemical weapons; and
If the Government of Syria does not sign the Convention within 45 after the date of the enactment of this resolution, all elements of national power will be considered by the United States government.
Requirement for a Syria strategy and building and international coalition. Not later than 45 days after the date of the enactment of this resolution, the President shall submit to Congress a long term strategy for Syria, while concurrently using all appropriate diplomatic tools to develop and secure commitments from the international community with the shared strategic interest of preventing the proliferation and use of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Syria is one of five countries that have not signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention. Angola, North Korea, South Sudan and Egypt are the others. Israel and Myanmar have signed onto the treaty but have not ratified it. The convention does not cover biological weapons.
The existing Senate authorization language for Syria approved out of committee already has the uneasy backing of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the top two Republicans in the House, John A. Boehner of Ohio and Eric Cantor of Virginia. News of the Manchin-Heitkamp draft first was reported by Politico.
Aides to Senate Democratic leaders did not respond immediately for comment late Thursday evening.