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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Syria


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DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is a committee that it tends to be full of more hawkish senators and others.

But I'm here with one of the Republican senators who definitely asked some of the more critical questions. And that is Senator Risch of Idaho.

Thank you very much.

Sold or not sold?

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Not sold at this point. But we have got another day of this. And in the morning, we have some more classified hearings. And I really want to give the administration the ability to make their case. I'm going to listen carefully to that. But it's a heavy lift for me right now.

BASH: I know your questioning was more about Russia. But even more broadly, what makes this such a heavy lift for you?

RISCH: Well, I have got -- the number one concern for me is that it's going to get away from us. It isn't just Syria. Syria probably has very little ability to do much harm to us. It could to our allies. Hezbollah is another real consideration.

What are they going to do, particularly with Israel? When and if that happens, this becomes a problem that it's going to be very hard to get the genie back in the bottle. So I'm really concerned about that. The other thing that really worries me about this is everybody's talking about if we don't do something, that it's going to undermine our credibility in the region.

Well, what happens if we do, do something and we don't finish off Assad? What are our allies going to say? What kind of -- Assad will crawl out from under his rock and beat his chest and say, look, I stood up to the great American war machine, and I won and here I am. What are our allies going to -- how will they respond to that?

BASH: But the other part of that argument that Secretary Kerry and others have been making is if the United States doesn't stand up even on a moral level, then what's the point? What's the point of standing for the kind of morality that the U.S. tends to stand for?

RISCH: I think you have to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. There's no question what this man did was terrible, it's awful.

But, remember, this wasn't the first time he's used gas on his people. This was classified until a few minutes ago, as Secretary Kerry said, that it's been in the teens the number of times he used gas on his people. This has been going on for some time.

BASH: But isn't that even more of a reason to try to stop him in his tracks now that the genie is out of the bottle?

RISCH: And if you're going to do that, then you ought do it, instead of doing the shot across the bow or doing some kind of limited action.

And I'm afraid that's going to undermine what people think about us in the region. But again I come back to we all know what day one's going to look like. What about day two, three, four and five? What does success look like here? That's one of the things they're having a very difficult time painting a picture for me that would be bring me to the vote.

BASH: What are you hearing from your constituents?

RISCH: Well, I think that the constituents are largely against this. Some people are adamantly against it. Most people are more moderately against it.

But I'm certainly not getting any kind of clamor at home that America ought to pull the trigger on Syria.

BASH: Senator, thank you very much. We will talk to you after your classified briefing tomorrow. I know you can't tell us the details, but maybe you can tell us our position. Thank you for stopping -- Wolf, back to you.


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