09.17.14

Rep. Adam Schiff Votes For The Plan to Arm the Moderate Syrian Opposition Forces

Washington, DC –Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the House Intelligence Committee and author of legislation providing a limited and narrow authorization for use of military force against ISIL, voted for the President’s funding request to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition forces. He spoke earlier on the House Floor about the decision to support the resolution, and released this statement after the vote:

“This afternoon I cast my vote to approve the President's funding request to support the training and equipping of moderate Syrian opposition forces.  I did so after long consideration, and mindful of the difficulties of vetting such a force during the middle of a brutal civil war.

“Any decision to supply arms to combatants must be weighed carefully; indeed, for the last several years I have opposed arming the Syrian rebels out of a concern for our ability to properly vet such troops and the fear that weapons we provide may end up in the wrong hands.  Those concerns persist, but they have been overcome by the growing menace of ISIL and the willingness of our regional allies to play a greater -- and open -- role in the support of these forces.  

“ISIL now controls about a third of Iraq and a like portion of Syria.  It has been unsurpassed in its brutality, committing mass executions, forced conversions, trafficking in women and beheading its hostages -- including Americans James Foley and Steven Sotlof.  If ISIL is allowed to consolidate its territorial gains, or expand them, it will be able to act on its stated intention of serving as the platform for attacks on the United States.  The thousands of foreign fighters, including Americans, who have flocked to join its ranks will one day attempt to return to the west and attack us on the homeland.  The longer ISIL can draw new recruits, the longer the United States will have to confront the threat that these fighters will return home, many with visa-free travel to our shores.

“Our response must be proportionate to the threat. It does not justify American occupation of Iraq or Syria, or the introduction of American ground forces -- all of which are likely to be counterproductive.  It does justify the use of American air power, intelligence, financial, diplomatic and military support.  And since air power alone will not be sufficient on the battlefield, it will necessitate the assistance of local ground forces.  In the case of Iraq, those ground forces will be provided by the Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga.  In Syria, with rigorous vetting, training and support, the rebel opposition may provide the raw material for a credible military force. There is no guarantee that the Syrian opposition can form a cohesive fighting force, something that has thus far eluded them, but the open support of Gulf nations in housing and funding this opposition holds the promise of consolidating regional support behind them.

“The threat posed by ISIL is an outgrowth of the disastrously sectarian policies of the Nouri al-Maliki regime in Baghdad and the ruthless dictatorship of the Bashar al-Asad in Damascus.  Our military efforts and those of our allies alone cannot succeed without addressing the political fractures created by both.  I applaud the Administration for its role in urging the Iraqis to form a new and more inclusive government and look forward to the day when a representative government can take shape in neighboring Syria and this carnage can come to an end.”