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Syria debate splits Arizona congressional delegation

PHOENIX — Three of Arizona’s nine members of the U.S. House of
Representatives say they’re either against or leaning against a resolution
requested by President Barack Obama to use force to punish Syria for using
chemical weapons against its citizens.

Five of the other six House members are on the fence.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Tuesday that he was “”still listening” to
the administration’s lobbying, but said it “seems strange” to believe
officials’ briefings that Syrian targets would be still in place weeks after
they were identified.

Obama won conditional support this week from one of his fiercest foreign policy
critics, Republican Sen. John McCain. The Arizona senator said Tuesday that he
is prepared to vote for the authorization that Obama seeks, but he told NBC he
wouldn’t back a resolution that fails to change the battlefield equation, where
Assad still has the upper hand.

The Associated Press canvassed the state’s nine House members for their
positions Tuesday, reaching all but Republican Rep. Trent Franks.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva said he was committed to a “no” vote, while
saying he believes the president when he says there’s proof Syrian Bashar Assad
used chemical weapons on his own citizens.

“The debate is about the use of force, the debate is about unilateral
action,” Grijalva told the AP. “And having seen what unilateralism has done in
the past, in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in the Middle East, this is a
quagmire I think we need to avoid, and use the international community as a
principal body to level sanctions.”

Two Republican House members also are strongly leaning against a use-of-force
resolution, according to their spokeswomen.

“As of now, unless something drastically changes, he’s leaning towards no,”
spokeswoman Apryl Marie Fogel said of her boss, Rep. Paul Gosar.

Rep. David Schweikert also was strongly leaning against supporting the
resolution.

“David’s not convinced there’s a U.S. interest and if we get engaged, what’s
our exit strategy,” spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said.

Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Ed Pastor were undecided,
while Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said she was undecided, but had concerns about
ramifications of a strike.

Undecided on the Republican side was Rep. Matt Salmon, who was among 98
Republicans and 18 Democrats who signed a letter to Obama last week demanding
that he seek congressional authorization for any military action against Syria.

“If it is proven that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own
people there must be consequences; the question for the administration, Congress
and the American people, is what should those consequences be,” Salmon said in
a weekend statement.

Spokeswoman Kristine Michalson said Salmon was traveling to Washington on
Tuesday and expects to get a classified briefing and attend a hearing Wednesday.
He is on House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A spokesman for Franks didn’t return calls seeking comment.

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