New Hampshire’s congressional delegation weighs in on Syria

Last modified: 8/30/2013 12:25:53 AM
Alone among her colleagues in New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat, took a firm stance yesterday against U.S. military intervention in Syria.

“While Syrian President Assad has committed vicious crimes against his own people, and I especially condemn the use of chemical weapons, it is hard to see at this time how a military strike against Syria will fix this,” she said in a statement. “If the United States launches a sustained and heavy attack, we run the risk of swapping Assad out for some equally ruthless group. If we launch a smaller, targeted attack, we run the risk of emboldening President Assad and causing more casualties.”

The international community has spent recent days determining how to respond to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons during an Aug. 21 attack on opposition fighters near the capital of Damascus, which reportedly killed more than 300 people. The U.S. government has indicated it may launch a military strike against the Syrian regime in coming days. But members of Congress continued to question yesterday whether there was strong enough evidence linking Assad to the use of chemical weapons and challenged whether President Obama has the authority to launch a strike without congressional approval. Britain’s House of Commons also voted down participating in military action yesterday.

Shea-Porter’s fellow New Hampshire Democrats, Rep. Annie Kuster and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, both said they were not in favor of putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. Neither took a firm stance on whether the U.S. should launch any military action, but said the president should be “extremely cautious” before using force.

“This is a clear violation of basic human rights and the international community must hold Assad accountable. With that said, we should not put American troops on the ground,” Kuster said in a statement.

Kuster also said the president should closely consult with Congress before intervening. But neither she nor Shea-Porter, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, joined more than 100 lawmakers in signing a formal letter requesting the president seek congressional approval before taking action, the Washington Post reported.

A statement from Shaheen’s communications director, Shripal Shah, echoed Kuster’s comments. Shaheen sits on both the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees.

“Senator Shaheen believes that the Assad regime must be held to account by the international community for the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians including Syrian children. She is not in favor of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria,” Shah said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in remarks reported Wednesday she would support military action if President Obama justifies that action to the public, clearly states his objectives, has international support and consults with Congress.

“The chemical attacks in Syria are deplorable and the President’s red line has been crossed again. Iran is watching and will take its cue on its own nuclear weapons program based on how the U.S. responds to Syria’s use of weapons of mass destruction,” she said in a statement.

She then outlined the above conditions and added, “If those conditions are met, I would support strategic military action to stop the use of weapons of mass destruction and turn the tide against Assad.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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