Local lawmakers still skeptical of Syria plans


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Originally Posted Online: Sept. 03, 2013, 5:26 pm
Last Updated: Sept. 04, 2013, 12:38 am
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

Quad-Cities area lawmakers, after new briefing and hearings, continued on Tuesday to be skeptical about attacking Syria.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. described evidence presented in a classified briefing that President Barack Obama hopes will convince lawmakers to support military action against Syria as "circumstantial"and urged the government not to rush into war.

"I have just attended a classified Congressional briefing on Syria that quite frankly raised more questions than it answered," a statement from Sen. Harkin said. "I found the evidence presented by Administration officials to be circumstantial."

Sen. Harkin said he wanted to wait for results from a United Nations inspections team that's investigated the use of chemical weapons in Syria before taking any action.

"What I hear from Iowans is that the Middle East has a complex history and the conflicts there will not be solved by U.S. military action alone." he said. "We should not rush into what may become a new open-ended war without broad international backing or a full understanding of the ramifications."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Il., has yet to make clear if he would support military action against Syria.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday during a briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Sen. Durbin said that any language authorizing military force must be precise.

"I hope that we can have your word and assurance that we can work together in a bipartisan fashion to craft this language in a way that carefully achieves our goal but that does not expand authority anywhere beyond what is necessary," he said.

The rapidly evolving debate was sparked by the alleged use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people by the Assad regime.President Obama said last year that use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would cross a "red line."

Mr. Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that U.S. intelligence proved "beyond any reasonable doubt" that the Assad regime was behind a chemical weapons attack last month.

Many in Congress remain unconvinced of the benefits of a bombing campaign against the Syrian government, which has been locked in a civil war since 2011.

"I have a lot of serious reservations about an attack on Syria by the United States under the circumstances that we now find ourselves in," Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, said on Monday.

Rep. Loebsack said it was up to President Obama needed to show how it served America's national interests to attack Syria.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, said the goal of any intervention in Syria would only be to deter the future use of chemical weapons and is opposed to putting any U.S. personnel on the ground in Syria.

After listening to a briefing by senior administration officials, Rep. Bustos said she still had a "ton of questions" including seeking answers to the impact of a missile strike against Syrian military installations.

"I've heard these missiles are very precise," she said. "Are they going to hit exactly what we want them to hit?"

Rep. Bustos said it was important the U.S. only act in Syria if it has broad international support.















 



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