The Edmond Sun

September 4, 2013

Oklahoma representatives consider Syria action

Lankford: ‘I remain opposed’

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation are announcing their positions on U.S. military action in Syria ahead of key authorization votes.

During the weekend, President Barack Obama, who hours earlier seemed to be on the verge of ordering a strike in response to alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said a U.S. military response is warranted, but he wants authorization from Congress.

The president, who is in the midst of a three-day trip overseas that includes the G-20 meetings in Russia, and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to make their case in support of action. Meanwhile, senators have drafted a resolution limiting action to 90 days with no boots on the ground.

Assad has said Syria is “capable of confronting any external aggression” and the regime has blamed the most recent incident on rebel forces. Rebel leaders blame the regime for the attack which, the U.S. says, killed 1,429 people including at least 426 children.

Tuesday evening, U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond, appeared at a community forum in Bethany. While constituents raised a number of important questions, the majority focused on next week’s vote in the House to authorize military action.

After hearing from constituents through community forums, email, phone calls and social media, the response from Oklahomans in the 5th District has been overwhelmingly against U.S. action in Syria, Lankford said.

“I remain opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war,” he said, noting he grieves for the victims of the conflict, especially the children and their devastated parents. “It is my belief that U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war is not in our national interest.”

On Saturday, Rasmussen Reports released a poll that showed 40 percent of likely voters do not think the U.S. should get more involved militarily in Syria and 23 percent are not sure.

Lankford said he will review the classified material in Washington, but based on what he knows the proposal on the table does not achieve the nation’s larger goal in the Middle East of stability or a reduction of chemical weapons threats.

“A limited missile strike will only weaken our hand in the Middle East when Assad claims a year from now that he beat the rebels and the Americans,” Lankford said.

Laramie Adams, spokesman for District 3 Rep. Frank Lucas, said the congressman has not released a statement to date. Lucas is holding two days of town hall meetings to listen to constituent concerns this week, Adams said.

District 2 Rep. Markwayne Mullin said he believes it is not the United States’ responsibility to get involved in another country’s civil war.

“Neither side in this civil war has the United States’ best interest in mind,” Mullin said. “I cannot support any U.S. military action or involvement in Syria.”

District 1 Rep. Jim Bridenstine said he is pleased President Obama is seeking authorization to use U.S. military force in Syria.

“As a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe that the use of U.S. military force should be selective, based on America’s national security interests,” Bridenstine said. “Thus far, President Obama has failed to clearly define America’s national security interests in Syria or explain how a limited cruise missile strike would contribute to achieving our strategic objectives. I look forward to hearing the president’s case, but right now I’m skeptical.”

Sarah Corley, spokeswoman for District 4 Rep. Tom Cole, said the congressman, who spoke with constituents Tuesday in Midwest City, is opposed to military intervention in Syria and will not vote to authorize it.

Regarding Oklahoma’s senators, following Wednesday’s classified briefing for the Senate Armed Services Committee, ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe said he continues to oppose the current plan. Inhofe said five months ago he called on the president to discuss a plan in Syria and the Middle East and warned that the tide of war is not receding.

“I still have not heard this plan,” Inhofe said, noting that many members have expressed their concerns. “We know this could be open ended; we know that an attack on Syria could have repercussions on Israel, but no one is talking about the decimation of our military. Today we can afford to launch 300 cruise missiles into Syria, but we cannot ignore that such an attack on another country is an act of war.”

Inhofe said the president has decimated the military through budget cuts through sequestration. He wants the president to explain the objectives and end game in Syria, present a long-term strategy for the region and the means to fund it, and clarify associated risks.

John Hart, a spokesman for Tom Coburn, said Coburn has not made a decision. | 341-2121, ext. 108