Delegation still wary of strikes against Syria

By JOE RUTHERFORD
Daily Journal

Northeast Mississippi’s congressional delegation so far has declined support for any U.S. military strike against Syria.

President Barack Obama has said he is considering how to strike Syria in response to the Assad regime’s apparent deadly use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, including children. Use of chemical weapons has been condemned in international law for 90 years.

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran have said they want more information about what Obama proposes, and Rep. Alan Nunnelee said the president has yet to make a compelling case for an airstrike.

Obama has asked for congressional approval of military action against Syria, but he’s held open the option of proceeding if he doesn’t get it.

Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, visited the region in an official delegation earlier in the summer, including a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border. On Thursday, he reiterated previous statements in support of arming Syrian rebel fighters opposed to the Bashar Al Assad regime.

Wicker has called on the Obama administration to step up its efforts to support Syrian opposition to Assad and put an end to the 29-month-long war that has seen more than 100,000 people killed and 1.7 million people displaced.

In earlier remarks, Wicker said the civil war is a “regional disaster.”

Wicker indicated he wants more information about any proposed attack. He said he does not plan to attend at a pro forma brief Senate session today designed to speed the process of bringing a resolution to a floor vote once Congress returns from the August recess next week.

Nunnelee, a Tupelo Republican who represents the 1st District, also said Thursday through a spokesman that he appreciates Obama’s going to Congress for a vote, but the case so far isn’t compelling.

Spokesman Jordan Russell said in statement, “Congressman Nunnelee is glad the president is following the Constitution by coming to Congress for authorization, but also believes President Obama has yet to make a compelling case for intervening in Syria. We should not get into a war without a good explanation for how it would advance our national interests, a clear military objective or a plan for how to achieve it.”

Cochran, a top-ranking Republican, said through a spokesman late Thursday he is watching developments, including the evolution of the resolution being prepared for a Senate vote. Cochran will not attend the session set for today.

“The senator thinks everybody realizes that the use of chemical weapons is very serious. He just thinks moves should now be made to determine what the appropriate response is,” said Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for Cochran, in an earlier published report.

“The senator understands that there has to be some U.S. official reaction to the actions taking by the regime in Syria against its own people,” Gallegos said. “It violates the Geneva Convention. There are all kinds of violations going on here.”

joe.rutherford@journalinc.com