Rubio Says Next Step In Syria Is Negotiating Regime Change

WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. Marco Rubio says the next step in Syria should be to work with Sunni governments to discuss “an alternative” government in Syria.

Rubio is a Florida Republican and onetime rival of President Donald Trump. The conservative tells NBC’s “Today” show that Trump should reach out to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Turkey, to discuss ways to get Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and create a new regime.

Assad has not responded to diplomatic pressure in the past, but Rubio says the military strikes could change that.

He says, “We need to now move forward through a combination of diplomacy and, quite frankly, the support of groups on ground, particularly non-jihadist Sunni groups, to create alternatives to the Assad regime.”

The United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles Thursday night in fiery retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. President Donald Trump cast the U.S. assault as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking “to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”

It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president just over two months ago. Announcing the assault from his Florida resort, Trump said there was no doubt Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for the chemical attack, which he said employed banned gases and killed dozens.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine says President Trump’s decision to retaliate against Syria was not legally justified, although it was right from a moral standpoint.

Kaine tells CNN that Trump should not have ordered military airstrikes in Syria “without coming to Congress” first.

Kaine says the Constitution is very clear in that only Congress declares war. Many legal scholars would disagree, noting that a president can act unilaterally in such cases that U.S. troops are at risk.

Kaine is calling on Trump to outline a plan to resolve the Syrian conflict so Congress can debate and vote on it.

Kaine is a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. He also was the Democratic candidate for vice president last year.

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says President Trump must “be prepared to take other action” in Syria.

In an interview on MSNBC, McCain praised Thursday’s air strikes as a measured approach to chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government that “restores credibility” to the U.S. and gives Trump a chance to “reboot with the American people.” McCain says the Syrian air force must be neutralized and that new demilitarized “safe zones” should be created to address the humanitarian crisis.

Also, McCain says it would help for Trump to stop impulsively tweeting. He says: “I would love to see the tweeting stop. But I’d also like to see pigs fly. … I just think it’s in his DNA. But perhaps there will be more restraint.”

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(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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