U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told reporters in a Friday conference call he does not favor military intervention in Syria despite reports Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against his own people.
President Barack Obama has set “a clear red line” that regime use of chemical weapons in Syria is not acceptable, a White House official told reporters in a background conference call Thursday.
The White House official said the U.S. intelligence community has “varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria with the chemical agent sarin.
President Obama’s administration is pressing for a United Nations investigation “that can credibly evaluate the evidence and establish what took place in association with these reports of the use of chemical weapons,” the White House official added.
But Roe, R-Tenn., warned there are many disparate groups in Syria.
“The group that supports the current leader (al-Assad) is only about 12 percent of the population,” Roe explained. “You’ve got Al-Qaida in there. You’ve got the Sunnis, the Shias, Hezbollah. ... It is a hodgepodge. I don’t see any way but a crash landing with that deal. Assad has decided to fight to the end, and I think from what we’ve heard and read ... there’s no imminent collapse. He has enough strength and aid from the Russians to hold his country together. ... The opposition, ... the problem is no one exactly knows who they are.”
A classified briefing on the Syrian situation, Roe noted, capped a rather uneventful week on Capitol Hill.
Roe said the major piece of legislation he voted for Friday was to alleviate sequester-related spending cuts causing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to furlough air traffic controllers.
Those furloughs were causing flight delays primarily at major airports, including Newark, La-Guardia, JFK, Chicago O’Hare, and Tampa, according to the FAA.
Both the U.S. House and Senate passed bills allowing the FAA to move funds around to eliminate the furloughs, Roe said.
Roe is slated to be in the 1st Congressional District next week and will hold a joint town hall meeting Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m. with U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., in Bristol at the Paramount Theatre.
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