WASHINGTON – Sending Syria arms and aid and possibly more is a commitment that could haunt the U.S. for years to come, according to some Washington lawmakers. They are cautioning the Obama administration to carefully consider history, a still-fragile U.S. economy and the need to develop a clear end-strategy before agreeing to help fight and fund a civil war 6,000 miles away.
“What is the plan? Where are we going in Syria? And what do you want to accomplish?” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers asked Sunday.
The voices of caution are emerging after the administration agreed to provide small arms to the rebels, citing evidence that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons.
Michael Singh, the managing director of The Washington Institute and a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, told Fox News, "By saying we are going to send small arms, the administration is showing that they are finally taking a step forward. It’s not clear if it’s meant to show we’re doing something for the sake of doing something or if it’s part of a larger strategy.”
Singh said there needs to be a frank discussion between the White House and lawmakers and a game plan in play on the benefits of American intervention. “Providing small arms is unlikely to tip the balance in Syria and you need a comprehensive strategy and what you need is a clear goal,” he said.
Unlike GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who commended Obama’s decision to deepen America’s involvement in the two-year Syrian conflict, Arkansas Republican Rep. Tom Cotton said he’s not ready to sign off on a plan until he gets more information.
“So the sooner (Obama) comes to explain exactly what he wants to do, exactly how it differs from what we have been doing, the more we can help support American interests in the region, which is to prevent Syria from becoming a failed state, and weapons of mass destruction getting into the hand of Al Qaeda-aligned terrorists, Jordan collapsing because of an internal refugee program,” Cotton said in a statement.
Last week Obama said the U.S. will start arming Syrian opposition groups with light weapons. The announcement came as the White House confirmed the use of chemical weapons by Assad's regime – a declaration made by France and Britain months ago.
On Monday, McCain took to Twitter to criticize the “light weapons” shipment the U.S. is pledging to send rebel fighters compared to the Iran's ammunition contributions to Assad’s soldiers.
“And we're going to send light weapons? "Report: #Iran to send 4,000 Revolutionary Guards to bolster Assad’s forces" McCain tweeted to his 1.8 million followers.
Rogers said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” that it seemed as though the Obama administration had a great media strategy but “they don’t have a great Syrian strategy.”
Following Obama’s announcement last week, Sen. Rand Paul scolded lawmakers from both parties for intervening in another war. Instead, he said America should cut off funding to the Syrian rebels and remove itself from the conflict altogether.
During a speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington last week, Paul told the crowd that the Syrian rebels were “haters of Christianity” and added, “It is clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East and I believe that must end.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said military intervention is too costly for America to shoulder.
“Syria is ethnically, politically, religiously much more complicated than Libya,” he said in an interview in Foreign Policy magazine. “This is the reason why the right way forward is different. The guiding question should be: Would it bring a sustainable solution to the problem if we decided to intervene?”