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NH delegation urges caution on Syria

Staff Report
August 28. 2013 11:10PM

Protestors listen to speeches during a rally against the proposed attack on Syria in central London August 28, 2013. (Reuters)

With President Obama apparently preparing to launch a military strike against Syria, the state's congressional delegation is urging caution.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said the "international community" must respond to the Syrian government's use of chemical warfare against its own people, while Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte called the attacks "deplorable," adding "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," Ayotte said.

Obama is reportedly weighing a limited strike in terms of scope and duration. Senior administration officials told the Washington Post it would probably last no more than two days and involve sea-launched cruise missiles.

According to the New York Times, it would not be aimed at ousting Syrian President Basar al-Assad, but would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical weapons attacks on Syrian citizens.

Secretary of State John Kerry has said the use of chemical weapons in an attack last week against opposition strongholds is now "undeniable," according to the Post. A State Department spokesman said Wednesday the Obama administration plans to bypass the United Nations Security Council as it prepares for a possible strike, after having failed to win support from Russia for an anti-Syria resolution.

Shaheen and Ayotte both serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Shea-Porter is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.


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," said her spokesman, Shripal Shah. "She is not in favor of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. She believes we must be extremely cautious before using force in this unstable region."

In a written statement, Ayotte said: "The President must explain to the American people clearly the justification for military action, his military objective and how he will achieve that objective, build as broad an international coalition as possible, and consult with Congress — 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."

Democratic House member Carol Shea-Porter was a staunch opponent of U.S. involvement in Iraq and rode that anti-Iraq war theme to her first victory back in 2006. She was previously an anti-Iraq war activist who was ejected from a speech by former President George W. Bush in 2005 for wearing a T-shirt saying, "Turn Your Back on Bush."

Regarding a possible attack on Syria, Shea-Porter said: "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.

"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." Her written statement concluded: "I understand why there is such a range of opinion about what will or won't work in Syria, but there is still no clear path to ending the violence in Syria's civil war."

Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat, said in a statement, "I am deeply troubled by the Assad regime's horrific and inexcusable use of chemical weapons against its own people. 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 and must be extremely cautious before contemplating the use of force in Syria."

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