N.H.’s Kuster leaning against congressional authorization for strike on Syria
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster said yesterday she’s leaning against voting to authorize a military strike on Syria but hasn’t made a final decision.
“I have grave concerns about the unintended consequences of a strike,” said Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat, adding, “At this point, my concern is, will this action, as it’s proposed, lead us toward a negotiated settlement and peaceful resolution? Or, as I fear, will it lead us into, essentially, a conflagration in the region?”
President Obama has asked Congress to authorize military action against Syria after a suspected chemical weapons attack by President Bashar Assad’s regime Aug. 21 outside Damascus. The U.S. government says the attack was launched by the Syrian government, which has been fighting a civil war since early 2011, and killed more than 1,400 people with sarin, a nerve gas.
Among New Hampshire’s four-member congressional delegation, only U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has said she will support Obama’s request. On Wednesday, she joined a majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in supporting a resolution authorizing a limited military action.
“Failing to take action against the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons poses a significant and direct threat to American national security interests,” said Shaheen, a Democrat, in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, also a Democrat, opposes authorizing force against Syria, saying this week she fears “the United States could be drawn into a lengthy and deadly conflict.”
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, hasn’t taken a position yet.
“Sen. Ayotte received a classified briefing this week in the Armed Services Committee, and she is carefully evaluating the Senate resolution in light of that briefing and other information she has been provided,” said spokesman Jeff Grappone. “She still has additional questions about our military objectives and how we will achieve them, and she continues to believe that the president needs to address the American people directly during prime time on how it is in our national security interests to take military action against Syria.”
Kuster spoke about Syria yesterday at a town hall-style event at Red River Theatres in Concord, organized by WMUR and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. She said she’ll be in Washington today to receive a classified briefing on the situation, and hasn’t made a final decision.
Kuster said she respects Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been a vocal advocate for U.S. military action against the Syrian government.
“But my concern is that this strike – whatever the scope, whatever the duration – will have consequences in the region that I don’t know that we can predict,” Kuster said.
Gary Lambert, a Republican former state senator from Nashua who announced this week he will challenge Kuster in 2014, said he’s opposed to Obama’s plan.
“Under the current situation, I don’t see any reason why we should want to get involved. . . . Just lobbing a bunch of missiles into Syria, I don’t see as a strategy,” Lambert said yesterday.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)