Collins criticizes how Obama is handling Syrian crisis

WATERVILLE — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, says President Barack Obama has put the country into a "no-win situation" by issuing an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad without fully considering the consequences.

The Maine Republican said at an appearance in Waterville on Tuesday that she is pleased that Obama has sought congressional approval for a possible military strike against Syria, suspected of using chemical weapons against its own people.

U.S. Sen Angus King, I-Maine, plans to answer questions about Syria about 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Portland Jetport. King is a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees and says he hasn't made up his mind about a military strike.

King could be a key vote in the Senate.

The Morning Sentinel (http://bit.ly/17z2ucM ) reports that Collins said the president acted too quickly when he warned that Syria's use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" resulting in serious consequences.

Asked about his own past comments drawing a "red line" against the use of chemical weapons, Obama said it was a line that had first been clearly drawn by countries around the world and by Congress, in ratifying a treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.

Obama said Wednesday the credibility of the international community and Congress is on the line in the debate over how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. As Obama made his case overseas during a visit to Sweden, his proposal for military intervention was under consideration by skeptical members of Congress.

Collins said if there is no military response it could embolden Iran, which she referred to as a "rogue state" developing a nuclear weapon.

She said military action would likely cause the deaths of innocents.

With Obama in Europe, the president's top national security aides were briefing legislators in a series of public and private hearings, hoping to advance their case for limited strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in retaliation for what the administration says was a deadly sarin gas attack by his forces outside Damascus last month.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote on authorizing the use of force as early as Wednesday, the first in a series of votes as the president's request makes its way through Senate and House committees before coming before the two chambers for a final vote.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top members drafted a resolution late Tuesday that permits Obama to order a "limited and tailored" military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn't exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.

Asked whether he would take action against Syria if he fails to get approval from Congress, the president said his request to lawmakers was not "an empty exercise," but that as commander in chief, "I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security."

To get a green light from Congress, Obama needs to persuade a Republican-dominated House that has opposed almost the entirety of Obama's agenda since seizing the majority more than three years ago. Several conservative Republicans and some anti-war Democrats already have come out in opposition to Obama's plans, even as Republican and Democratic House leaders gave their support to the president Tuesday.

House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a meeting at the White House and declared that the U.S. has "enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it's necessary."

Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, also backed action. But he acknowledged the split positions among both parties and said it was up to Obama to "make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action."

Information from The Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.

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David Rossi's picture

To senators Collins and King:

To senators Collins and King: Please vote against striking Syria at this time. Syria is not a threat to us. The opposition in Syria is largely made up of people who want to destroy us. Don't help them attain power.

Everyone contact your congressman and both of your senators and urge them not to support the president in this matter.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Kudos David. The U.S. has no

Kudos David. The U.S. has no business getting involved in a civil war let alone another conflict. All civil wars burn themselves out.

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