South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Tuesday she will likely vote to take military action against Syria if the resolution lawmakers are set to debate this week clearly outlined President Obama’s pledge not to send troops to the troubled nation.
“I’m not there yet, but I’m leaning toward approving targeted limited airstrikes,” Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, told the Miami Herald Editorial Board, two days after she and other members of Congress where shown evidence of chemical warfare used by Syrian President Bashar Assad on his people.
But she said the strike will not lead to regime change in Syria or end further killing.
“What the vote to strike is saying to Assad is: ‘You can continue to kill your people, but buddy, use bullets don’t use gas’,” she said. “What in essence we’re saying is: ‘we’re going to be there a few days, we’re going to bomb a few targets and we’re going back and you, rebels, you sort it out.’’
And knowing the agenda of the rebel forces is also tricky.
“There are so many rebel groups. A lot of them have understood how to play the United States… they’re good scholars of our system. And I think that they’ve been playing us. We don’t have much trust in those rebel groups. I don’t. But I trust our U.S. military,” she said.
Even as many agree that the American public is “war-weary,” Ros-Lehtinen, the former head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said it’s important to take strong action against the use of nuclear weapons.
“The president said this is a red line, this is unacceptable. Now if the president says that – ‘it’s unacceptable, it’s a red line, we’ll have to look at our options’—and does nothing, what I worry about is then, when we say to Iran ‘all options are on the table,’ Iran will shrug their shoulders and say ‘we’re going to have nuclear capabilities because the United States stands for nothing. They say one thing but they do another.’’
Ros-Lehtinen said Obama had no choice but to seek approval for military action.
“He needs Congress now because he wants someone to be with him. He’s standing there alone. We are standing there alone. He has ignored Congress for all of these years, has built no relations really to speak of with anyone in Congress in a strong way. And now he turns to us to give him authorization.”
She said the plan is a “tough sell’’ and the administration needs to be more forthcoming with the American people at the congressional hearings.
“The administration has got to make more evidence public.They come into us always classified and classified and classified. And it drives us crazy. The president has a few short days left to convince the American people, to build an international coalition. A lot depends on those hearings. It’s a tough sell.’’