The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 23, 2013

US surveillance, Syria at issue on defense bill

(Continued)

The overall defense spending bill drew an expected veto threat from the White House, which argued that it would force cuts to education, health research and other domestic programs to boost spending for the Pentagon.

The House also will consider an amendment that would bar funds for any military action in Syria if it violated the War Powers Resolution. Another amendment would prohibit money to fund military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.

Republicans and Democrats argued that Congress should have a say in what amounted to taking sides in a sectarian war.

The debate over Syria comes as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a cautionary assessment of more aggressive American military action, said establishing a no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels would require hundreds of U.S. aircraft at a cost of as much as $1 billion a month with no assurance it would change the momentum in the 2-year-old civil war.

In a letter to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Martin Dempsey outlined the risks, costs and benefits of five potential steps as the Obama administration weighs its next move to help the opposition battling the forces of President Bashar Assad. The sectarian conflict has killed at least 93,000, according to United Nations estimates, and displaced millions, prompting more calls on Capitol Hill for greater American action.

Dempsey said the decision to use force in Syria is not one to be taken lightly.

"It is no less than an act of war," he wrote. And once that decision is made, the U.S. has to be prepared for what may come next. "Deeper involvement is hard to avoid," he said.

The United States has been providing humanitarian assistance to the opposition seeking to overthrow the Assad government. The administration has recently taken steps to arm rebels with weapons and ammunition, a move welcomed by some in Congress but troubling to other lawmakers.

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