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Iowa representatives respond to Syria conflict

BY REBECCA MORIN | SEPTEMBER 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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The nation is in a stir because a possible U.S. military strike in Syria is up for discussion. Iowa’s leaders — like many across the nation — are wary of the potential outcome if the United States engages in another battle far away from home.

“We’re talking about using some cruise missiles to send a message not to do this again,” Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, said on Tuesday. He went on to question whether engaging militarily with Syria would be an effective deterrent “that doesn’t risk inflaming the region into a broader war that will suck the United States in and will require a much broader application of force.”

President Obama announced on Aug. 31 that the United States should take military action on Syria because of the alleged use of chemical weapons, but he would first seek congressional approval.
Congress is currently out of session and will return Sept. 9.

“I think it was the right decision on [Obama’s] part,” said Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa. “I think that anything the president might do with respect to Syria militarily needs to have the approval of Congress. I think it needs to have the approval of the American people as well, so I think it was the right thing for him to do.” 

But Loebsack backed off on engaging with Syria militarily.

“I have to be presented a very, very powerful case to justify military involvement in Syria at this point, and I’ll leave it at that,” Loebsack told The Daily Iowan.

The U.S. government alleges that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime attacked Syrian citizens on Aug. 21 using chemical weapons that killed more than 1,400 people. U.S. officials claim that they have evidence that Assad’s regime used sarin gas to conduct the attacks.

University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor Timothy Hagle said that the biggest concern for congressional leaders is the possibility of military involvement escalating beyond a strike.

“The Middle East is in general a difficult situation, and this [congressional] discussion is an example of that,” he said. “It’s been a more drawn-out process than [the United States] originally thought.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee created a new resolution Wednesday to present to Congress that would authorize a strike in Syria. The Committee came to a decision after Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to them on Tuesday.

The resolution is to be presented to Congress once they are back in session.

“The coming debate in Congress will hopefully shine the light on outstanding questions — as will the results of the U.N. inspection team,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa said in a statement released Sunday. “We must wait for these results before any action is taken.”

Harkin also said the U.S. should not “rush into what may become a new open-ended war without broad international backing or a full understanding of the ramifications.”

UI political-science Associate Professor Brian Lai said the decision to use military action on Syria would be tough to pass in Congress.

“There will be support in the Senate,” he said. “But in the House, it will be more difficult because there is not a huge public backing and if the representative’s district doesn’t back [military action], then they will try to reflect what their constituents want.”

Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, told the DI on Wednesday that he had not heard anything at this point that would persuade him to vote in favor of military involvement.

“I see no vital U.S. interest,” he said. “I think if the world community comes together in action against Syria, I would reconsider.”

As the looming deadline is approaching for both House and Senate representatives, another Iowa senator said he will listen to the discussions from his colleagues until it’s time to make a final vote.

“I am going to next week be privy to numerous discussions with colleagues that will take place on the floor of the Senate,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday in a conference call with Iowa radios. “But more importantly, it will be going to those secret briefings that we get. And I will make up my mind before I vote — and even maybe at the time I have to vote.”


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