Left and Right, US Lawmakers Unite Against Escalating War in Syria

Bipartisan Bills Aim to Stop Escalation of War, Arming of Islamists

by Jason Ditz, March 21, 2017

While the Pentagon provides plans for the Trump Administration for a major escalation of the US involvement in the war in Syria, new bipartisan legislation is being pushed in both the House and the Senate aiming to oppose the escalation and put legal obstacles in the way of it.

Reps. Barbara Lee (D – CA) and Walter Jones (R – NC) are pushing one such bill, aiming to force Congress to debate US involvement in Syria, and to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to prevent the administration from using it as an excuse for the operation.

With the repeal of the AUMF, the bill would also explicitly forbid the deployment of additional US ground troops to Syria without any permission from Congress. The bill is gaining some support in both parties, though past efforts to repeal the AUMF, and to try to limit the wars in Iraq and Syria, have never gained enough support to pass.

If it does get support, this might force a significant shift in policy, with the US nominally having capped their Syrian force at 503, but having closer to 2,000 by most recent estimates. This mirrors caps that were in place in Iraq, which were similarly long since blown past.

This is just one of the bills aimed at US policy is Syria, with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D – HI) and Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) offering a bipartisan “Stop Arming Terrorists Act,” which would forbid US government funds from being used to support al-Qaeda, ISIS, or any other terrorist group.

While that seems like common sense, the bill would effectively kill the CIA’s program to arm Syrian rebels, as many of the recipient factions are allies of al-Qaeda, or ideologically similar groups. Rep. Gabbard visited Syria shortly before the Trump inauguration, and met with President Assad.

The Gabbard bill would also require the Director of National Intelligence to provide up to date lists every six months of the individuals and groups forbidden to receive aid, either because they are terrorist groups or are working with them. This is another piece of information that the CIA has previously, desperately, sought to avoid as part of its arming program.

This bill is more likely to get some support from the Trump Administration, as President Trump had similarly argued against arming rebels repeatedly throughout the election campaign, though since the inauguration, there has yet to be a public move to end the CIA program.

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