On Sunday, the Obama administration held a classified closed-door intelligence briefing for approximately 80 members of the House and Senate at the Capitol Visitor Center concerning evidence that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens two weeks ago.
One of those members in attendance was Polk and Hillsborough area Republican Congressman Dennis Ross. Ross said that while he joins President Obama in strongly condemning the Sryian regime's use of chemical weapons against their people, "I continue to not support the use of military force in Syria at this time."[jump]
In a press release issued Monday morning, Ross said, "What is the compelling national interest at stake that requires our military involvement? I have yet to learn of any exit strategy, or what may be the impact of retaliatory strikes by Assad against our allies."
Tampa-area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor also opposes any direct strike on Syria. In a letter sent to President Obama on Thursday, two days before he stunned the world by asking for congressional approval about what to do in Syria, Castor pressed Obama to provide more intelligence to members of Congress and allow them a vote before he committed to any military action. However there is nothing in her letter that indicates that her vote will be to support an attack.
"I strongly reject the view that the lack of an overt military strike is equivalent to U.S. inaction in the face of the brutality and violation of international norms by Assad and Syria," Castor wrote. "In fact, America has been engaged in Syria for years through extensive covert actions, robust diplomatic efforts, and enormous humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. We all strongly condemn the reprehensible actions of the Syrian Assad regime and I understand that the Administration feels compelled to address the atrocities. At this time, I urge the Administration to focus on measures that bring stability to the region and not exacerbate the dire situation through overt military action."
Pinellas area Congressman Bill Young has not released a statement, but he did tell Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times late last week that "I do not want the U.S. to be involved in another war like we have been in that region. It's not only very expensive but it could lead to putting our soldiers in Syria. We have been tied up in Iraq. Afghanistan is a real sloppy failure and we're hurting kids that don't need to be hurt."
Obama administration officials say that they will work with members of Congress on redrafting their proposed resolution that would go before the House next week. That proposal had no prescriptions for what type of military action could be carried out or its duration.