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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 10th, 2013
06:39 PM ET

Sen. Murphy: Obama told Democrats he has 'no interest' in military strikes if he has other options

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted against last week's resolution authorizing military action in Syria.

He has since called Russia's proposal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, a positive development.

This administration has been thinking long and hard about every possible way around war, said Murphy.

"What the president told us today in our caucus meeting with the Democrats, is that he has no interest in going to war. He has no interest in military strikes if he can find a way out of it," said Murphy.

But Russia's proposal is complicated, given Russia's relationship with Syria, the complexity of locating chemical weapons, and the lack of trust between the U.S. and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"It can work," said Murphy. "I don't think the Russians would have floated it, I don't think the United States and Russia would have discussed it over the last few days if it couldn't ultimately work."

U.S. intelligence has a good idea of the location of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, said Murphy. "If we didn't, we wouldn't consider striking the country, because you can't make a mistake and strike one of these stockpiles, or that would kill a lot more people."

Given that Secretary of State John Kerry is travelling to Geneva later this week to meet with Russian foreign secretary, "it makes sense for the Senate to pull back right now, to give the president the time and the space to try to work this out," said Murphy.

President Barack Obama and others say that the only reason the Russians and Syrians are even at the negotiating table is because of the U.S. threat of force.

"The Russians have a lot of reasons to try to be part of an international solution here, separate and aside from the fact that the United States may be contemplating a bombing campaign," said Murphy. "It's not in their long term interest to side with a madman in Syria who is gassing his own people."

But if the U.N. can approve a resolution, and the plan to disarm Syria works, other than taking away the chemical weapons stockpile, it doesn't seem like there would be any real punishment for Assad.

"If we could punish him without having reciprocal consequences in the region or a spill-off effect that ultimately compromises U.S. national security, I would be for it," said Murphy, adding that a strike could also cost the U.S. billions of dollars.

"I would love to be able to go in and punish this guy for what he did. But if ultimately that ends up getting the U.S. embroiled in a regional conflict that hurts our national security and causes Assad to take reciprocal actions against his own people, or against our interests in the region, it's not worth it," said Murphy.

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