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Syria possible strike: The White House makes its case Round II

By Ed Payne, CNN
updated 11:48 AM EDT, Wed September 4, 2013

(CNN) -- The White House's case for a military strike on Syria enters Round II Wednesday.

Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the Hill, this time to be grilled by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. On Tuesday, he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to sway skeptical lawmakers. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey joined him.

Some 43 lawmakers in the House and the Senate now say they can get behind President Barack Obama. But about three-fourths remain undecided or haven't announced how they plan to vote.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes up a revised bill authorizing a military strike -- one that sets a 60-day deadline for use of force in Syria, with an option for an additional 30 days. More lawmakers may come on board with such a stipulation.

So, there's been progress. But it didn't come without some major verbal fireworks.

Here's a point-counterpoint of the assertions made and objections raised -- not just at the hearing but throughout the day Tuesday.

Life on the ground in Syria
Doran: America's credibility on the line
King: Syria will define Pres. Obama
Rubio: Assad fall may trigger civil war

POINT:

Americans can't get behind an attack. Two new polls show that more people oppose rather than favor such a military strike. According to a survey from ABC News/Washington Post released on Tuesday, 36% of Americans support military strikes, while 59% oppose.

COUNTERPOINT:

But it's nearly equally divided when allies share the load. Support increases to 46% if other countries, such as Great Britain and France, get on board, the polls show.

--

POINT:

Expect a repeat, if al-Assad isn't held accountable. "If the United States of America doesn't hold him accountable on this, with our allies and friends, it's a guarantee Assad will do it again, a guarantee," Kerry said.

COUNTERPOINT:

No one can guarantee the future, said Republican Sen. Rand Paul. "We don't know how Assad will react and I think there's an equal argument to be made if the U.S. bombs him," he told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."

--

POINT:

The conclusion is unanimous. All the different intelligence agencies say chemical weapons were used, Kerry said. He added he didn't know of any "agency that was a dissenter or anybody who had, you know, an alternative theory."

COUNTERPOINT:

Obama continues Syria push to Congress
King: Syria hearing about public opinion
'Authoritarian system changed Assad'

The conclusion is biased. Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian's ambassador to the United Nations, dismisses American, French and British claims, saying they "cannot be taken seriously and are not credible." "These three governments are deeply involved in the crisis. In helping the armed groups," he told CNN's Christian Amanpour.

--

POINT:

Russia won't budge. The United States can't reach a political solution through the U.N. Security Council. Kerry said Russia, a close Syria ally, refused to sign off even on a resolution condemning a chemical attack that didn't assign blame.

COUNTERPOINT:

Russia can be swayed. Russia "doesn't exclude" supporting a U.N. resolution to punish Syria with a military strike if it's proven that the regime used chemical weapons, President Vladimir Putin said. But in the same interview with the Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television Tuesday night, Putin said it's "absurd" that al-Assad forces would.

--

POINT:

Attack will make the world less stable. "I think there's a reasonable argument the world may be less stable because of this," the libertarian-leaning Paul said. He also asked if Israel will be more safe, saying a strike in Syria may spur Hezbollah to attack Israel in retaliation.

COUNTERPOINT:

Not attacking will make it so. "I can make it crystal clear to you that Israel will be less safe unless the U.S. takes this action," Kerry said. "There is a much greater likelihood that at some point down the road Hezbollah ... will have access to these weapons of mass destruction."

--

POINT:

Don't make another mistake like Iraq, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations said. "You can repeat the same mistakes that the previous American administrations did at many times," Ja'afari told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.. "I'm really afraid that we are repeating the same tragic and regrettable scenario in Syria today."

COUNTERPOINT:

Syria's no Iraq. "I remember Iraq. Secretary Hagel remembers Iraq," Kerry said. "That is why our intelligence community has scrubbed and rescrubbed the evidence." In Iraq, intelligence reports at the time indicated weapons of mass destruction simply existed and "we had a mass invasion" to find those weapons. In Syria, not only does the United States know that chemical weapons exist, Kerry said, but they have been used multiple times.

--

POINT:

There won't be boots on the ground. "Let's shut that door as tightly as we can," he said. "There will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war."

COUNTERPOINT:

There might be boots on the ground. A revised bill authorizing military action that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes up Wednesday leaves open that possibility for a rescue mission. And right before he made his "shut that door" comment, Kerry said he can't take the option off the table in case Syria "imploded" or chemical weapons landed in the hands of terrorists.

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