President Barack Obama needs to work harder at building a regional alliance to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and be willing to take out strategic targets in order to bring stability to the embattled region, a top Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday.
Syria has been in a state of civil war for more than a year, with more than 92,000 killed as a result.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. should follow Israel's lead and attempt to do damage from outside of Syrian air space.
"There are targets we can reach," he said during a press event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "You can have a significant impact without violating Syrian air space and Israel's done that by the way, Israel has done exactly that, from all the reports."
Levin, who opposed the 2004 war in Iraq, said critical to U.S. efforts would be building a group of like-minded countries to help.
"If we help to provide the weapons and training and consider at least going after some of these targets which would weaken the regime from a position outside of Syria, without even invading or moving into Syrian air space we can make a difference, but we can't do that unilaterally," he said. "We shouldn't make the mistake that we made in Iraq."
Many have criticized the Obama administration for belatedly acknowledging that pro-Assad forces inside Syria used chemical weapons against rebels and for not taking the promised action once that red line was crossed. Last month, just prior to meeting with European leaders during the G8 summit, the administration announced it would be sending small arms to help the rebels, but Monday the White House said it would not provide further details on that effort.
"We cannot provide details about the timeline or logistics of delivery for every type of assistance, or catalog specific types of assistance," said White House spokesman Jay Carney during his daily briefing. "But we are in daily contact with the Syrian Military Council to discuss how we can support their needs. And we are in regular consultation with Congress on matters related to Syria assistance. The president believes very strongly that our updated assistance to Syria is essential to helping buttress the opposition as it endures this vicious assault from Bashar al-Assad [and] by Hezbollah and Iran."
Levin, who returned from a trip to Jordan and Turkey last week, said there's clear support for an anti-Assad effort and greater U.S. involvement.
"Almost every country in the region wants to get Assad out of there; if Assad survives this, Iran will be strengthened, Hezbollah will be strengthened because they are at his side, fighting," he said. "As a matter of fact, those foreign fighters are what are making the difference for Assad in shifting the momentum in his direction, which has been the case recently. So, in terms of training and equipping the Syrians, we need to be part of a regional group."