WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said today he will oppose the use of military force in Syria.
Shelby reviewed the classified intelligence on Monday and on Tuesday listened to Obama’s remarks during a closed-door lunch with GOP senators. He had already been leaning against the resolution and Obama did not say anything to change his mind. He called the president’s case “weak and vague.”
“President Obama has failed to articulate a clear American interest in this conflict,” Shelby said. “He has also failed to clearly explain what he intends to achieve and how he intends to achieve it. And he has failed to assure me that an attack would not further destabilize an already unstable part of the world.”
In the spring of 1999, Shelby was one of 16 Republican senators to support President Bill Clinton’s plans to strike the government of Yugoslavia over the crisis in Kosovo. Shelby also supported the resolution to use force against Iraq in 2002 that was requested by President George W. Bush.
Shelby, through a spokesman, said he supported action in Kosovo because the ethnic cleansing happened so close to the borders of Europe and posed a more immediate threat to NATO allies. He also said the objective of the Kosovo action was clearer than the current situation in Syria: to get Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian forces to withdraw from the Kosovo province.
The Senate was originally scheduled to hold a test vote on the Syria use-of-force resolution on Wednesday, but Democratic leaders postponed it.
President Barack Obama has called for military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad after concluding that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against opposition-held neighborhoods of Damascus on Aug. 21 killing more than 1,400 people, including children.
– Mary Orndorff Troyan