Robert Gates, the former U.S. defense secretary who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has come out in favor of a U.S.-led military strike against Syria and is asking lawmakers to do the same.
"I strongly urge the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to approve the president's request for authorization to use force in Syria," Gates said in his first public statement on the matter, according to a report in Politico.
"Whatever one's views on current U.S. policy toward Syria, failure by Congress to approve the request would, in my view, have profoundly negative and dangerous consequences for the United States not just in the Middle East but around the world both now and in the future," he said.
The comments may help Obama administration officials, who are lobbying lawmakers to support a limited air campaign against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians.
U.S. intelligence has concluded the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, in an Aug. 21 sarin gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus.
Despite overwhelming public opposition to U.S. involvement in Syria, a Senate panel yesterday voted 10-7 in support of a resolution authorizing the use of military force in the country. The full Senate and the House may decide on the measure next week.
The resolution would set a 60-day deadline for military action, with an optional a 30-day extension, and bar the deployment of ground troops to the country, or "boots on the ground." The language, which was amended to highlight the goal of boosting moderate opposition forces, must still be approved by the full Senate and the House of Representatives.
Only 36 percent of the American public supports launching missiles against the Syrian regime, according to an ABC News/Washington Post survey released Tuesday, with almost six in ten opposing such a move. A small percentage of respondents had no opinion.
International opposition to a U.S.-led intervention in Syria is also high. The British Parliament recently blocked a measure that would have allowed British forces to participate and Pope Francis this week said a military solution would be a "futile pursuit."
Gates, who served in the top position at the Defense Department from 2006 to 2011 under the Bush and Obama administrations, is scheduled to discuss Syria during a panel discussion Sept. 17 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, alongside his successor, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, according to the report.