A bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Tom Udall, plus Democrat Chris Murphy – has introduced a bill to cut off Defense Department and intelligence agency funding for operations in Syria. Humanitarian aid would not be affected. This would effectively checkmate President Obama’s plan to arm the Syrian rebels.
The senators expressed concerns about Obama bypassing congressional authorization, and worried about where those American weapons might end up, as quoted by Fox News:
Paul said he was disturbed by the president’s decision to reverse course and arm the rebels, fearing getting mired in a conflict in which little is known about the fighters battling the regime.
“Engaging in yet another conflict in the Middle East with no vote or Congressional oversight compounds the severity of this situation,” Paul said in a statement. “The American people deserve real deliberation by their elected officials before we send arms to a region rife with extremists who seek to threaten the U.S. and her allies.”
Murphy expressed concern over the possibility that American weapons and money could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.
“We should be extremely wary of allowing the United States to be drawn into a complicated proxy war that could mire our country for years at a potentially incalculable cost to U.S. taxpayers and America’s reputation at home and abroad,” Murphy said.
Actually, Paul called the decision to shower weapons on the Syrian rebels “incredibly disturbing” in his full statement. Lee cautioned against getting involved in more expensive, problematic “nation-building” adventures, while Udall said he wasn’t ready to sign up for another unilateral smoke-and-mirrors Obama operation, in which the President keeps his cards under the table, and his spin doctors on the Sunday talk shows:
The ongoing humanitarian tragedy deserves the attention of the international community. But there are too many questions about how the President’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels will be handled, and unfortunately many of those answers are being kept secret. We don’t know where the money is coming from, who the arms are going to, and whether the arms are going to individuals who have the capabilities to maintain a chain of custody of those weapons. This would not be acceptable in any standard sale of weapons to another government and should definitely not be acceptable for sales to rebel groups we know little about.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already approved plans to arm the rebels, and it wasn’t a close vote. In fact, Paul, Udall, and Murphy were the only votes against it. (Lee does not sit on the Foreign Relations Committee.) Senator Paul tried attaching amendments that would have prevented passing weapons to the Syrian rebels or deploying American troops into the conflict, but they were defeated.
A complete block on military funding would make President Obama look like a fool, so I doubt Senator Murphy is going to have much luck rounding up support on his side of the aisle. Meanwhile, Paul and Lee will probably get called “wacko birds” again by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who is even more eager to get the U.S. involved in Syria than President Obama. Hopefully the CIA will choose carefully when it decides whether to arm the “moderate,” ineffective thieves, or the powerful, disciplined jihadis.