Reps. Zoe Lofgren & Anna G. Eshoo Release Letter to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Potential Authorization of U.S. Military Action in Syria

September 2, 2013
Press Release

Following a conference call held earlier today with Members of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) released the following letter to Ambassador Susan Rice, the President's National Security Advisor, regarding the potential authorization of U.S. military action in Syria.

Click here for a PDF copy of the joint Eshoo-Lofgren letter, the text of which is also pasted below.

The two lawmakers previously asked the White House to provide more information to Congress following the President's statement on August 31, 2013.



Washington, DC 20515

September 2, 2013

The Honorable Susan E. Rice

National Security Advisor

The White House

Washington, D.C.


Dear Ambassador Rice:


We participated in this morning's conference call with yourself, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, DNI James Clapper and General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We appreciate the unclassified information shared with us and the serious nature of the questions that face the Congress and our country. Because of the short time frame, the call ended before we were able to pose our questions.

We plan to attend the classified briefings offered on the issue of whether chemical weapons were used and by whom when Congress reconvenes. However, based on all we have heard so far, we are inclined to conclude they have been used and want to focus on the real questions that face the United States. What should we do, why, and what are the implications?

We had previously issued a statement containing a series of questions on August 31st. We believe it is important for the administration to answer each of these questions. A copy of our statement is enclosed, and we look forward to your answers.

This morning's discussion stimulated several other questions that we feel must be answered.

First, if our efforts are to "degrade" the Assad regime's chemical weapons capacity, what exactly does that mean? If the Assad regime is able to continue to deploy chemical weapons, then to what extent will the regime have capacity to use them again? We understand, and concur with the assertion, that specific targets of a military assault should not be shared. Our question has to do with what Syria and the Assad regime's capacity would be expected to look like after your proposed military attack.

Second, what would the United States do if, after a military attack, chemical weapons are used again in Syria? What would the United States do if retaliation against Israel, Turkey, or Lebanon follows the proposed attack?

Third, we understand from Secretary Kerry that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Arab League support taking military action. What nations, other than France, are willing to contribute concrete effort (men, material, and arms) to this proposed military attack as opposed to mere verbal support? Will Turkey and Saudi Arabia be actual participants in a military attack? If not, why not?

Assuming we attack alone or with France, where does this leave the United States if Syrian civilians die and world public opinion, especially in the Arab world, turns against the attack? If, as Secretary Kerry notes, the world is outraged at Assad's conduct, why does it fall only to the United States to take actual military action?

Fourth, it was noted that Russia also opposes the use of chemical weapons. What has not been adequately addressed is what response we expect from Russia if a military attack is undertaken. What are the immediate, short term and long term implications for US-Russian relations?

Finally, as DNI Clapper pointed out, while we have scenarios, this would be war and events are not entirely controllable. We understand that it might be unwise to publicly report the various scenarios that detail potential adverse consequences from a military attack although we assume that this analysis has taken place. However, we feel we must learn of the potential adverse impacts of a military attack before a vote on authorization. We will be available for classified briefings on this issue when Congress reconvenes in just a few days to receive these analyses.


Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)


August 31, 2013

Joint Statement from Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren

Regarding Congressional Debate and Potential Authorization of U.S. Military Action in Syria

We are pleased that President Obama will seek Congressional authorization before engaging in any military hostilities against Syria.

That authorization is legally and constitutionally required — the President cannot legally act alone without the U.S. Congress. This construct is part of the genius of our nation's democratic system and our Constitutional checks and balances.

We welcome the opportunity to listen to the facts of this matter in the most public forum. While a review of the evidence, both classified and unclassified, as to the use of chemical is important, we are already inclined to believe that these horrific weapons were used based on public and social media accounts. We believe that the question before the U.S. Congress is not "can the Obama Administration prove that the Syrian government used chemical weapons?" Rather, the paramount question is, if that is true, "what is the best course for the United States to take, and why?"

Here are just a few of the questions that are at the heart of what Congress must debate as we and our colleagues determine the best course for the United States to take:

Ç What role should the United States play in enforcing international treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons?

Ç International treaties are frequently violated by various nations. What precedent does it set if the United States acts in this case? Will the U.S. be placed in a position where we must respond whenever treaties are seriously violated? If not, why?

Ç Civilian massacres have occurred in other countries without U.S. military intervention and are occurring today in Egypt, for example. Would action in Syria set a precedent for action in other parts of the world? If not, why not?

Ç Should the U.S. take action when international bodies, including the UN and NATO, have declined to do so?

Ç Should the U.S. take action when the United Nations has asked that we not do so?

Ç Should the U.S. act when other nations decline to participate with our country in taking such action, including Great Britain? Arab nations?

Ç If action is taken by the United States what impact will it have on the future behavior of the Assad regime? On what basis are we concluding that Syria will change its behavior based on a U.S. attack on Syrian targets?

Ç If the U.S. attack is limited in scope and time, what message will that give to Syria as well as other nations such as Iran? If the action is protracted in scope and time, what are the potential costs in American lives and U.S. taxpayer dollars? For U.S. prestige in the world and in the Middle East?

Ç How would U.S. military action against Syria make the American people safer? The Syrian people? The people of Israel?

Ç If a U.S. attack assists the rebels in overthrowing the Assad regime, who takes over in Syria? If the Assad regime falls, will further civil war ensue between competing rebel factions? What role will Al Qaeda play?

Ç The Syrian civil war is also a proxy war for other powers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and other non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. What impact would U.S. action have on these other actors?

Ç Will the unrest in Syria spread in the region if the U.S. acts? If the U.S. does not act?

Ç What impact would U.S. action have on our closest ally in the region, Israel? Would a U.S. attack on Syria lead to retaliatory attacks against Israel or others? What will the reaction of Israel be in that case? What U.S. action would then be required?

Ç If our country decides that some action by the U.S. is required, what should that action be? Should further diplomatic efforts, as opposed to military action, be considered? Are there feasible sanctions that could be put in place? Other actions?

Ç If military action is proposed, what are the targets, the scope and the cost? What is expected to be accomplished and how will that serve the interests of the United States? Syria? The Middle East? The World?

Ç What is our strategy for Syria (and for the Middle East generally) and how would military action support or damage that strategy?

Ç If the Assad regime, or even the rebels, were to engage in actions that appear to violate international treaties including the use of chemical weapons in the future what action would the U.S. take? What would be the consequences of further action or inaction in such a case in terms of spread of war, entanglement of the U.S. in the Syrian civil war, U.S. reputation around the world, and the perception of American strength and resolve by Iran and North Korea? To what extent is the U.S. "painting ourselves into a corner" by attacking Syria now? Will that force us to attack again in response to further violations? If not, why?

Ç What impact would U.S. military action have on relations between Russia and our country? What are the short and long term implications for Russia and the U.S., including efforts to continue the reduction of nuclear arms by our two nations?

Ç What are the possible adverse results of U.S. military action in Syria? What steps have been taken to address those potential adverse impacts? What is the "end game?"

We hope the Congressional debate will be carried out at the highest level, with the result that the United States acts, or does not act, after the most deliberative consideration. In that regard, we ask the President to make his case in the light of public scrutiny, not by "classified" briefings that are kept from the American people and which Members of Congress are prohibited from discussing publicly. This debate will have its needed effect only if it is fully transparent.

We pledge to our constituents and fellow Americans that we will carefully weigh the facts and options that face the United States at this juncture. We look forward to debating and hearing answers to these questions, and other relevant ones that may emerge, as we examine the facts and further hear from our constituents on this very serious issue facing our country.


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