WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat who represents parts of Westchester County, has urged President Barack Obama to take action in Syria.
"If reports are credible that the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime has used chemical weapons resulting in the estimated deaths of hundreds of civilians, then clearly a red line has been crossed again," Eliot said. "The U.S. has two options -- continue to largely stand on the sidelines as the regime slaughters its own people, or tip the balance of power against a brutal dictator by degrading its ability to attack civilians. If we are to salvage what remains of our credibility in the region, we must act soon."
The comments by Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, came a few days before Assad agreed to allow United Nations inspectors to examine the area where chemical weapons allegedly were used Aug. 21 in the suburbs of the capital of Damascus.
Those U.N. inspectors reportedly were fired upon by snipers Monday morning while trying to get to the scene of the alleged chemical weapons use. The team was uninjured and reportedly will return to the area later, the U.N. said.
The U.S. has said there is little doubt Assad's regime was responsible for the chemical-weapons attack, which killed 355, according to the group Doctors Without Borders.
“If we, in concert with our allies, do not respond to Assad’s murderous uses of weapons of mass destruction, malevolent countries and bad actors around the world will see a green light where one was never intended,” Engel wrote in a letter to Obama obtained and reported by Reuters.
While Engel wants U.S. action, he doesn't want a ground invasion like in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“And, we can do this with no boots on the ground, from stand-off distances,” Engel wrote in his letter. “I know that your administration is wrestling with these very complex issues, but I believe that we, as Americans, have a moral obligation to step in without delay and stop the slaughter.”
That moral obligation is not shared by many Americans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll release this past weekend, which shows Americans have little appetite to get involved in a another conflict abroad.
About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the U.S. should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought Obama should act. The poll found support for U.S. intervention grew to 25 percent if Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent still would oppose it.