Secretary of State John Kerry sought to stress to Congress Wednesday that no U.S. combat troops will be sent into fight extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – testimony that came ahead of a crucial vote in the House to arm and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Facing a panel of senators divided over the current request from the Obama administration, Kerry said arming the moderate opposition in Syria was the “best counterweight” against ISIL and emphasized to lawmakers: “ISIL must be defeated. Period. End of story.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted narrowly Wednesday to give President Barack Obama the authority to strike Syria, setting the stage for a floor battle that will illustrate deep divisions on Capitol Hill about the merits of military action against the Assad regime. The vote in the committee was 10-7, with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) voting present. The approval came after a three-hour briefing with top Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence — the latest in a string of classified discussions about the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.