US & Canada

Syria crisis: US draft resolutions for action

US President Barack Obama's call for military action against Syria has gained support from senators - but with clear criteria limiting the operation to 60 days and without the use of ground forces.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations added a set of limitations and amendments to proposals put forward by the president, who wants to persuade politicians and American citizens of the need for a military response to the suspected chemical weapons attack on opposition-held areas of Damascus by government forces last month.

President Obama's draft legislation  [86KB] Senate Foreign Relations Committee draft resolution [150KB]

Congress is expected to vote on the draft resolution next week.

Here, we highlight some of the checks and balances that the foreign relations committee has added to the president's draft.

Limited authority

As commander-in-chief of the United States military, the president proposed that he should be authorised to use it "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" in connection with the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The senators agree - but as long as it is in a "limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets".


The president and the senators agree on the main objective of using military force, which is to "deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction".

They use the same language to emphasise that they believe the conflict in Syria poses a threat to regional stability and the interests of the US and its allies.

Looking forward, the president and senators say "the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement" and urge Congress to call "on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process", based on the final communique issued in June 2012 after an Action Group for Syria meeting in the Swiss city.


Whereas the president's resolution is relatively short - at about 414 words - the senators then add their limitations, extending the document to 1,544 words.

The senators' resolution spells out what President Obama has said in public, but did not include in his draft text - that ground forces would not be used in Syria.

With the shadow of extended missions in Afghanistan and Iraq still hanging over the country, they also set a time limit to any operation - 60 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension under extraordinary circumstances.

And before any military action is over, the senators want to see firm proposals for a strategy to seek a political settlement to the conflict in Syria.

BBC North America Editor Mark Mardell says the senator's draft is by no means the definitive motion, and more changes and amendments may be made by the time Congress votes next week.