**** US Senator John McCain has been caught playing poker on his iPhone during a key hearing about attacking Syria. He played a few hands under the table during Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was hearing from the likes of Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel. Despite being snapped by an eagle-eyed Washington Post photographer, the influential senator - who ran for President in 2008 - laughed off the matter. He tweeted: "Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing - worst of all I lost!"
The resolution - which will be voted on next week - restricts action to "limited and tailored use of the United States Armed Forces against Syria", according to a copy obtained by the AFP news agency.
It also has a provision to extend the initial 60-days of military action by another 30 days.
It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin said he "doesn't exclude" military strikes against Syria if it is proved that the regime used poison gas on its own people.
In an interview ahead of this week's G20 summit, President Putin said if convincing evidence emerges he could back a UN resolution.
Military action moved a step closer on Tuesday as President Obama won support from leading opposition Republicans and US Secretary of State John Kerry urged senators not to succumb to "armchair isolationism".
A US Senate panel has approved the use of military force in Syria, in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack. By 10-7, the Committee on Foreign Relations moved the measure to a full Senate vote, expected next week. The proposal allows the use of force in Syria for 60 days with the possibility to extend it for 30 days. It prevents the use of US troops on the ground.
McCain wants to give Obama authority to launch a military intervention aggressive enough to degrade Assad’s ability to trigger chemical weapons and “change battlefield momentum” drastically enough to ensure Assad’s departure from power. “I believe it would be very important that provisions concerning that, which is the president’s stated policy, be included in this legislation in some form,” said McCain. “So we are negotiating and discussing how that will happen.”
The dispute over policy delayed a Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark up of the use-of-force resolution that was scheduled to begin at 11:30 am. It has been postponed until this afternoon. “If Bashar Assad remains in an advantageous position, he will never leave Syria. He has to know that he is losing and that way you get a negotiated settlement for his departure,” McCain said. “The president has said Bashar Assad must go so our policy has to be to implement what the president of the United States has said. "The language is reverse the battlefield momentum," McCain said of his amendment.
“I think there’s a historic event going on here and if this vote is won, that is defeat (of) the request to have more military approach to Syria, I think it will be historic because it would be a grand coalition of the Libertarian Republicans and the Democratic Progressives,” the former Republican congressman said on MSNBC’s “NOW with Alex Wagner.”
The 2012 Republican presidential candidate who is known for his libertarian bent and opposition to U.S. military involvements abroad said he would welcome a split between the two major parties over Syria in order for different factions to come together.
“Everybody’s worried about the split in the Democrats, the split in the Republicans. I’m delighted with that split because it’s pushing people together who are on opposite ends of the spectrum, one which I enjoy,” said Paul.