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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - No Arms to Syrian Rebels


Location: Washington, DC

A letter to the Administration today from U.S. Representative Rick Nolan and four other Members of Congress expressed shared concerns over the President's recently announced plans to provide military assistance to Syria.

Representative Nolan joined U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representatives Chris Gibson (R-NY), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Peter Welch (D-VT), in signing onto the letter, articulating their joint belief that any intervention in this conflict will result in a dangerous escalation of U.S. involvement.

The letter cites figures from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, noting that intervention options range from $500 million per year to as much as $1 billion per month, and that any intervention must be approved by the full Congress.

Said Congressman Nolan, "At a time when across-the-board sequestration cuts are hurting our middle-class families, our working parents, our tribal communities, and our nation's veterans, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on another war of choice is, quite frankly, irresponsible and reprehensible."

"This is just another example of our misplaced priorities. Instead of focusing on rebuilding our nation's crumbling infrastructure, coming to a deal on student loan rates, or strengthening our middle class by investing American manufacturing, we're choosing to become involved in yet another costly war where it is not wanted and not needed."

"While we recognize and condemn the tragic violence in Syria, we must get over this false notion that the enemy of our enemy is our friend," Nolan added. "U.S. military involvement in Syria would demonstrate we have learned nothing from engaging in previous similar situations -- which have resulted in tremendous loss of life, costs us trillions of dollars, and earned us the resentment of peoples around the globe."

Full text of the letter is below:

July 30, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC

Dear President Obama,

We write to express our concerns over recently announced plans to intervene in the ongoing civil war in Syria by providing lethal assistance to Syrian opposition forces. The conflict in Syria, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, is an unspeakable human tragedy, and deserves our attention and deliberation. We will continue to support diplomatic efforts to reduce the violence in the region. However, despite our strong desire to see the fighting end, we believe that providing weapons to opposition forces will represent a dangerous escalation of U.S. involvement.

While we sympathize with the tremendous suffering taking place in Syria, we believe providing arms to Syrian opposition forces will exacerbate the conflict, embolden extremist forces, and potentially require further U.S. involvement. Despite the incredible skill and dedication of our military and intelligence personnel, we are not confident that the administration can effectively vet, deliver and maintain the chain of custody on arms to groups in Syria given the circumstances and composition of opposition forces. Many of the groups and individuals involved are known to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, and adversaries of the U.S. and our interests in the region. We are equally concerned with the long-term political and strategic outcome should the rebels successfully overthrow government forces. In the event President al-Assad is defeated, what role would the U.S. assume in the aftermath? What would our options be if rebel forces splinter and take up arms against one another? How will we control the transfer, and use of, the U.S -supplied weapons? How can we be assured that any vacuum created by a rebel victory in Syria will not result in the escalation of U.S. involvement? In a recent letter to Chairman Levin, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed these concerns, writing:

We have learned from the past 10 years; however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state. We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime's institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.

We share the concerns expressed by General Dempsey and ask that you inform Congress and the American people on long-term political options and goals for any potential undertaking in Syria. We are extremely troubled by the prospect that any failed action could lead to an escalation of U.S. involvement.

In addition to the concerns addressed above, we are also alarmed by the potential cost of these efforts, as outlined by General Dempsey. As he noted, intervention options range from $500 million per year, to as much as $1 billion a month. We question both the Administration's ability to locate these funds and the prudence of additional overseas spending in light of sequestration. Furthermore, we request that any funding you do seek to provide be approved through the normal authorization and appropriations process, subject to the same statutory restrictions and debate that governs nearly all other federal funding. A decision of this importance requires a fully transparent process that results in an informed and deliberate consideration by both houses of Congress.

Finally, we strongly believe that any effort to train, fund, or arm Syrian opposition forces, or otherwise engage in Syria, must first be authorized by Congress pursuant to the Constitution and the authorities outlined in the War Powers Act. Providing arms, training, logistical and intelligence support to opposition forces is an act of war that requires approval by the American people through their elected representatives. In accordance with the Constitution, these activities require the full debate and authorization of the Congress.

We thank you for your attention, look forward to your prompt response, and hope to work with your Administration on this important issue.


Representative Richard Nolan (MN-08)

Representative Chris Gibson (NY-20)

Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)

Representative Peter Welch (VT-At Large)

Senator Rand Paul (KY)

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