Lawmakers Press DOD, Coalition to Target Assad

Some lawmakers are pushing for harsher action against Syrian President Bashar Assad, including possibly targeting the Syrian Air Force, a move military leadership is cautiously pushing back on. During a Thursday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) pressed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford saying, “most of the fatalities and civilian casualties in Syria are caused by Bashar Assad’s barrel bombs and air attacks. Do you agree that we have the capability to take out Assad’s air force?” Dunford said the military does have this ability, but has not done so because “we have not declared war on the Syrian regime” and doing so would require a declaration by the President. Instead, the military is tasked with and needs to be focused on combating ISIS. The questioning came the same day that the US blamed Assad’s forces for an airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, which killed dozens. State Department spokesman John Kirby said during a Thursday briefing that the strikes were conducted “solely by the regime.”