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Providing for Considerations of HJ Res 124, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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I thank the gentlewoman.

I want to thank the Speaker, and I want to thank Leader Pelosi for working together to give us an opportunity to vote on this question of developing a Free Syrian Army. Make no mistake: the decision that Congress will make on that question is of great importance because it is, in fact, a major escalation in U.S. involvement.

Mr. Speaker, there is a collective revulsion at what ISIS did in the beheadings of two young Americans, and there is a good people here in this country, where parents saw the possibility of their own sons being in that circumstance, and everything in all of us wants to react to that.

The question is: Is the prospect of creating a Free Syrian Army a good step at this time?

The administration is briefing us. All of us are doing all of the consideration we can. We are going to have a debate on that. I want to ask some questions that I think are important for us to come to a conclusion.

First, I want to compliment President Obama. He did use air power to stop the slaughter of the Yazidis. In that circumstance, he had ground forces, the Peshmerga, and a reliable ally in the Kurdish Government.

Number two, the President was wise not to bomb when they were threatening Baghdad because he saw rightly that the problem was Mr. Maliki, who had created sectarian division and who had really undercut the capacity of his army by putting cronies in instead of good leaders.

Then, third, the President has exercised great restraint about not having us be involved in the maelstrom of the Syrian civil war. That is a Sunni-Shia civil war that is out across the entire belt of Syria and Iraq.

But what do we do?

As for our allies who are in the region--Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt--what are they going to contribute when they are the principal objects of this threat? They have over 1,000 planes among them, and they have armies. We haven't yet seen that.

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Second, the vetting process: How on a practical level will that work?

We want the moderate Syrian rebels, but, in fact, we are going to be working with Egypt and with Saudi Arabia. They would nix Muslim Brotherhood participation. They want extreme folks who support the very conservative regime in Saudi Arabia. We are creating a very practical dilemma in the potential success of the so-called ``Free Syrian Army.''

Finally, is the fundamental issue here one of military leadership or is it one of political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia? Is that a problem that can be solved by our military or is it a problem, ages old--centuries old--in that region, the conflict between Sunni and Shia?

When I consider the contributions that the men and women of our Armed Forces made to Iraq, in which they threw out Saddam Hussein and gave stability and gave an opportunity for the people of that country to decide to

live civilly together or in civil war forever, we gave them the chance they deserved.

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