Udall at least tired to include some common sense to this legislation:In an extremely disappointing vote, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Tuesday voted 15-3 to authorize the president to—among other things—arm and train the rebels in Syria who are fighting the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
This bill is terrible, and should be rejected by the Senate.
Yet, even amid this committee vote, there were a few bright spots in the form of Sens. Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, and Rand Paul, who were the three who voted no. Their vote wasn’t just correct, but their assessment of the situation should be heeded by the Obama administration and the full Senate as both consider what should be done, if anything, in Syria.Once we introduce weapons, we have zero control over them. Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, was correct when he said the United States “could turn over the weapons we’re talking about and next day they end up in the hands of al-Qaida.”
Yes, the legislation mandates that any groups who receive weapons are thoroughly investigated and vetted. But as long as groups are fighting together, they will exchange arms. And as long as groups need funding, they’ll be open to sell arms. Where those arms end up, no one really knows.
But as Udall noted, some of these groups are reportedly affiliated with al-Qaida. “It’s impossible to know who our friends are,” said Paul, adding that any of the rebels could turn their arms over to terrorist-affiliated groups. - Jon Soltz MSNBC, 5/22/13
Here's a little more info:To get a sense of how adamant the committee is to authorize more aggressive intervention in Syria, an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) to limit the types of weapons delivered to rebels was forcefully rejected as well. "The senator from New Mexico wants to use shotguns against SCUD missiles," McCain said dismissively.
The bill now includes an amendment by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), that would "require the administration to impose sanctions on entities that provide surface-to-surface or surface-to-air missiles, like the SA20s or S300s, to the Assad regime," according to a press release -- a clear reference to Russia, which has vowed in recent weeks to proceed with sales of advanced missiles that would extend the range and sophistication of the Syrian regime's anti-aircraft systems.
The Menendez-Corker bill next moves to the Senate floor, but an aide to Menendez said it was uncertain when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, will take up the legislation.
Observers say the bill's chances of passing in its current form are slim, but it does increase the pressure on the administration to intervene more aggressively. As Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted earlier this month, "If you want to pressure the president into acting, it's a pretty good bill ...The last time the Hill moved on Syria was sanctions on Syrian oil in the summer of 2011. That pressured the president to move, and this could too." - Foreign Policy, 5/22/13
Murphy and Paul make some valid points:The US has refrained from directly arming Syrian rebels, in part because of fear that weapons could fall into the hands of groups linked to Al Qaeda, such as Al Nusra Front.
"I don't think we know who we're arming. And the truth is, it changes every day. Sometimes resistance fighters are fighting each other," said Tom Udall, a Democrat and one of the three senators to oppose the measure, which faces a full Senate vote.
Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's office in Beirut, said the prospect of such groups wielding advanced weaponry was ominous for the region.
"The rise of Al Nusra in Syria sends chills down Jordanian spines," Mr Salem said.
Spillover from Syria's fighting has expanded to fronts other than the 1.3 million United Nations refugees who have fled to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey,
It was reported yesterday that Ankara closed its crossings with Syria, following two car bombs in a Turkish border town this month that killed 51 people. Turkey, which has called for Mr Al Assad's removal, accuses Syria's government of involvement. - The National, 5/23/13
Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. would provide more support for the Syrian rebels if diplomacy fails:Udall questioned whether the United States would know what rebel groups it was arming as it introduced more lethal weapons into a chaotic situation while Murphy argued that the U.S. hasn’t learned from history.
“We have failed over and over again in our attempts to pull the strings of Middle Eastern politics,” he said.Paul said the U.S. is war weary and reluctant to get involved in a murky conflict with so many factions. He said there is no assurance that the weapons would end up in the hands of “liberty-loving, Jeffersonian-type of democrats.”
“It’s impossible to know who are friends are,” he said. - Washington Post, 5/21/13
I applaud Udall, Murphy and yes, even Paul (he will get a very light clap) for at least trying to talk some common sense into arming the Syrian rebels. If we don't know who is going to get what weapons, it's probably not the best idea to be arming them, especially if they're associated with al-Queda. But I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments so fire away. Just please keep it civil. Also, if you'd like to thank Udall for standing up on this, please do donate to his re-election campaign:The alternative to seeking a peace agreement is continued killing, the empowerment of extremists and the possible disintegration of Syria, Kerry said. So no matter the odds, he said, it is important to try.
“We believe that trying to get the Geneva process, difficult as it is, fraught with all the complications that it presents, is a better alternative,” he said. - Washington Post, 5/22/13