National Security

Senators try to rein in Obama on Syria

A bipartisan group of senators wants to place broad limits on President Obama’s Syria strategy to avoid escalating U.S. involvement in the country’s civil war.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced legislation that would block the administration from using any funding that would “have the effect of, supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Syria by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual,” according to the proposal. 

{mosads}The legislation comes after Obama announced plans to send up to 50 special operations troops to Syria and as a bill that would authorize, and potentially restrict, the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has failed to gain momentum in Congress.

Lee, pointing to the inability to pass an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), said their proposal would “help limit what has increasingly become an unauthorized war.” 

The senators previously introduced the legislation in 2013 but suggested that an escalation of the war, and U.S. involvement, led them to try again. 

Udall, in a statement, said the president should “reevaluate” his regional strategy so that ISIS can be defeated “without risking American involvement in a complex civil war with multiple armed forces hostile to U.S. interests.”

Murphy added that the United States shouldn’t “get bogged down in another shortsighted ground war that risks arming our enemies.”

ISIS has repeatedly boasted about capturing U.S. equipment and supplies, both in Iraq and Syria. 

The legislation would, however, provide the administration with some loopholes including allowing for nonlethal humanitarian assistance for Syrians, as well as not restricting current or future intelligence efforts the president says are needed for U.S. “national security interests” in Syria. 

But the legislation faces an uphill, if not impossible, path in the Senate, where Republicans are wary of placing restrictions on the military’s ability to combat ISIS. 

The three senators have been vocal critics of escalating the military’s involvement in Syria, including leading the call to end a now-shuttered program that aimed to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

Udall and Murphy are also members of the Foreign Relations Committee, which is expected to hold a closed-door briefing next week on the administration’s actions in Syria.

Tags Barack Obama Chris Murphy ISIS Mike Lee Syria Tom Udall

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