(CNSNews.com) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon will consider a draft resolution that authorizes President Barack Obama to use force in Syria, but that prohibits him from using U.S. ground forces there "for the purposes of combat operations."
That leaves open the possibility that the president could deploy troops on the ground in Syria to secure the Asad regime's chemical weapons stocks--a hypothetical that Secretary of State John Kerry presented to the committee in a hearing yesterday.
"The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations," says the text of the draft resolution.
Section 2 of the draft resolution gives Obma the authority to use the Armed Forces in Syria "as he determines necessary and appropriate" for a limited purposes, including "to protect our allies and partners against the use of" weapons of mass destruction.
"The President is authorized," says the resolution, "subject to subsection (b), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, only to: (1) respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian government in the conflict in Syria; (2) deter Syria’s use of such weapons in order to protect the national security interests of the United States and to protect our allies and partners against the use of such weapons; and (3) degrade Syria’s capacity to use such weapons in the future."
In a hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Menendez asked Secretary of State Kerry if the administration would accept language in a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria that prohibited putting “boots on the ground.”
“It would be preferable not to [have a prohibition of boots on the ground],” said Kerry.
“In the event that Syria imploded, for instance,” said Kerry, “or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hand of al Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interest of our allies, and all of us--the British, the French and others--to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements. I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country."
In a statement explaining the draft resolution, Sen. Menendez said that he and Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the committee, had negotiated its language. In this statement, Menendez said the bipartisan resoluation ensured that U.S. forces would "not be deployed for combat operations in Syria."
There is no mention of prohibiting deployment of forces to secure Syria's chemical weapons.
"Together we have pursued a course of action that gives the President the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime’s criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused, limited in time, and assures that the Armed Forces of the United States will not be deployed for combat operations in Syria," said Menendez.
To read the full text of the draft resolution click here.