WASHINGTON — Several lawmakers from both parties said Sunday that they now expected the United States to take limited military action to punish Syria or deter further chemical attacks in that country’s civil war.
But lawmakers who appeared on Sunday talk shows said it would be reckless to add ground troops into a war in a region already in turmoil, and there was a general call for any action to be taken under the broadest possible international auspices.
“I hope the president, as soon as we get back to Washington, will ask for authorization from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
But Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the situation might be too urgent to wait for Congress, which does not return from its summer recess until Sept. 9. He suggested that there were many options for air attacks launched from outside Syrian airspace.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a Democrat and an Armed Services Committee member, said any military option should be carefully circumscribed.
“We can’t let ourselves get into a situation where this becomes a springboard for general military operations in Syria to try to change the dynamic” of the hostilities there, he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This has to be an international operation. It can’t be a unilateral American approach.”
If the United States wants to send a message to Assad, defense officials have previously indicated the most probable military action would be a Tomahawk missile strike, launched from a ship in the Mediterranean. The Navy has sent four warships equipped with cruise missiles to the Mediterranean.
Syrian State TV announced that Bashar Assad’s government would allow UN inspectors to visit the site Monday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Sunday in a statement. US officials said the decision was too late to be useful. The reported assent came several days after Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, one of the top-level contacts between the two governments, the Associated Press reported.
Kerry had warned the regime it needed to give inspectors immediate and unimpeded access to the site ‘‘rather than continuing to attack the affected area to block access and destroy evidence,’’ according to a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.