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Vermont Public Radio - Welch Votes No On Obama Plan To Arm Syrian Forces

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By Bob Kinzel

The U.S. House has given its approval to President Obama's plan to arm and train Syrian forces to fight against the terrorist group known as ISIS --the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Congressman Peter Welch voted against the plan because he says it has virtually no chance of succeeding and will put the U.S. in the middle of a Syrian civil war.

Welch says this vote was one of the most difficult that he's had to make in the eight years he's served in the U.S. House.

Welch says there's no question that the organization known as ISIS is a terrorist group that's promoting a radical agenda by using extremely violent tactics in the Middle East and he says it's clear that ISIS must be stopped.

But Welch says he has serious concerns about the President's plan to arm and train Syrian forces.

"This plan does not have any reasonable prospect to success," said Welch. "What it would do essentially is have us be trying to train five to six thousand Syrian rebels and it would get us engaged in the middle of a three year old Syrian civil war."

Welch says one of his biggest concerns is that the plan will drag the United States back into a very difficult situation in the Middle East and that American troops will eventually be needed.

"This is a momentous vote," said Welch. "Now, this one in particular because it is really one that will get the United States embroiled in a Syrian civil war and that conflict is even more complicated and unmanageable than the situation in Baghdad."

And Welch wonders why some U.S. allies in the Middle East are not committing their military forces in the fight against ISIS.

"The major question I think you have to ask yourself, said Welch, "is if America is doing this and it's going to benefit countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the ones that are most immediately threatened, why are those wealthy countries not stepping up and at least reciprocating with their forces?"

Mark Donka is Welch's Republican opponent in the November election. He wholeheartedly supports President Obama's plan.

"I just think at this point in time what we have to do is we have to try to control them or destroy them actually is as far in my mind," said Donka. "But if we don't do something now I think they're going to continue to getting stronger and they're going to continue destabilizing that region."

Donka agrees with Welch that the time has come for countries in the region to build a military coalition to fight ISIS.

"It's going to affect them quicker than it's going to affect us," said Donka. "They're going to have to step up to the plate, put a little skin in the game and not just say 'OK we're going to back you and let you fly over our airspace.' They're going to have to get involved in the game and help us defeat these people."

The measure will now be considered by the U.S. Senate and is expected to come up for a vote by the end of the week.


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