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Alaska delegation reacts to Obama's address on Syria

Posted: September 11, 2013 - 11:24pm  |  Updated: September 12, 2013 - 12:10am

Two members of Alaska’s Washington, D.C. delegation have reacted to President Barack Obama’s televised speech Tuesday on the crisis in Syria with expressions of concern for Syrians, but no message of support for a limited strategic bombing campaign.

Obama told the nation that he’s asked Congress to postpone a vote on a U.S.-led military strike in Syria while his administration pursues a diplomatic solution.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since a civil war broke out in March 2011. More than 1,400 were killed by sarin gas, a chemical weapon. Obama said his administration knows that the Assad regime was responsible for the gas attack.

“However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President (Vladimir) Putin, the Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons,” Obama said. “The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.

“Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails.”

Rep. Don Young responded to Obama’s address by saying that while his heart goes out to the victims in Syria, he remained opposed to any U.S. military action in Syria.

“I have heard from Alaskans throughout the state, and they also remain overwhelmingly against intervention,” Young said. “What is most important to U.S. national security is to ensure that Syria’s chemical weapons are not proliferated and used against America or our allies.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that she was still concerned about the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on its own citizens.

“The indiscriminate massacre of innocent people is a heinous act which must not be tolerated. Given the incredible stakes at play globally, I will look critically at the proposal to require Syria to turn over their weapons. Moving forward, the devised plan must include a series of binding protocols to secure all of Syria’s chemical weapons, destroy them, and allow verification that such actions have occurred,” Murkowski said. “While I do hope President Assad cooperates with the proposal, I remain concerned and I know many Alaskans agree that this administration does not have a coherent strategy for the region. The President needs to clearly articulate how this Syria plan lines up with any broader vision for the Middle East and how our national security interests are protected.”

Senator Mark Begich did not release a statement on the address. Begich’s press secretary, Heather Handyside, said the senator was sticking to his Aug. 31 statement, in which he outlined several requirements that would need to be met for him to support intervention in Syria.

“The intelligence must be rock solid that President al-Assad’s regime employed chemical weapons. The response must be narrowly tailored to curb or eliminate the use of chemical weapons. In other words, any military option must be immediate and in short duration to address the alleged use of chemical weapons. As I have said, I do not want any American boots-on-the ground in Syria and we must clearly understand any and all risks that action could cause to the United States and its citizens,” Begich said. “Finally, the anticipated costs and defined end state or exit strategy must be agreed upon before military force is used.”

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