Salmon grills Kerry; Flake, McCain support Syria bombing

kerryArizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain joined fellow Senators Robert Menendez, Bob Corker, Jeanne Shaheen, Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, and Tim Kaine on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to let President Barack Obama mount a bombing campaign of Syria.

Senators Rand Paul, John Barrasso, James Risch, Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, Marco Rubio, and Ron Johnson voted against the authorization while Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) voted present.

At the same time, Arizona Representative Matt Salmon, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, grilled Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday about Kerry’s claim that there were 34 different countries in support of a strike against Syria. Kerry said he didn’t have the list with him.

Kerry joined Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

“This morning, we heard President Obama emphatically state that ‘the world set a red-line’ regarding the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” Salmon said in a statement released after the hearing. “Given his statement, I felt it was appropriate to ask Secretary Kerry during his testimony if the world would join the United States in responding with multi-lateral military force. Unfortunately, Secretary Kerry’s response was unconvincing and led me to believe that the United States would be left to strike unilaterally and without a broad coalition of other nations.”

Salmon said that during the hearing, the Obama Administration had an opportunity to make their case for military intervention in Syria’s long-standing civil war. He said that after listening to the testimony, he was opposed to the use of U.S. military force “because the Administration failed to present a convincing argument that the events in Syria pose a clear threat to America, failed to list a strong coalition of nations willing to support military attacks, and failed to articulate a clear definition of victory.”

“While the use of chemical weapons should not be tolerated by any nation or regime, the Administration has not clearly answered these important questions,” Salmon concluded, “and therefore, has yet to convince the American people that military action is necessary at this time.”

Kerry claimed that Arab countries were offering to bear the cost. “That offer is on the table,” Kerry testified. “Some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost. That’s how dedicated they are to this.” But he stressed, “Obviously, that is not in the cards and nobody is talking about it, but they are talking about taking seriously getting this job done.”

According to the National Review, Salmon’s constituents have called his office 500 times about Syria, but only two callers have expressed support for intervening there. “This is not hyperbole!” Salmon told the National Review.

Paul told reporters that he didn’t see a “clear-cut or compelling American interest” to justify taking action in Syria. “I see a horrible tragedy, but I don’t see that our involvement will lessen the tragedy,” said Paul.

“The only chance of stopping what I consider to be bad policy will be in the House,” Paul said.

Salmon is firmly against authorizing a strike. “I don’t see any national security imperative for our country at all. Both sides in this equation are bad actors. Other than saving face for the president, I don’t understand what we would be doing,” said Salmon.

Further, Salmon doubts the intervention will be brief, “Nobody believes this is going to be a couple surgical strikes.”

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