GOP House Freshmen: Don't Arm Syrian Rebels

Image: GOP House Freshmen: Don't Arm Syrian Rebels A female rebel fighter from the Al-Ezz bin Abdul Salam Brigade attends a training session at an undisclosed location near the al-Turkman mountains, in Syria's northern Latakia province.

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:25 AM

By John Gizzi

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With the House Foreign Affairs Committee likely to begin probing whether chemical weapons were used in the Syrian civil war, several GOP freshmen on the panel told Newsmax they oppose arming the rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

As Israeli airstrikes continued over Syria for the third straight day, one committee member told Newsmax that such hearings under Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, would almost surely "investigate what’s going into Syria and what’s going out, and which side has chemical weapons."

Calls for such an investigation by the House panel came hours after reports that Carla del Ponte of the U.N. Independent International Commission on Syria said there are "strong concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof" that Syrian rebels have used the nerve agent sarin.

Several freshman Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee told Newsmax they supported Israel’s action to thwart a shipment of guided missiles to militant Hezbollah forces, but said they would oppose the United States sending arms to the Syrian rebels.

"Israel is now committed to stopping Hezbollah," Texas Rep. Steve Stockman said Monday as members returned to Washington from a congressional recess. "Bashar Assad was clearly intending to arm the Hezbollah militants and Israel is making him pay for it."

But even though Stockman said Israel "is now obligated to increase the attacks on Syria," he said he is opposed to the United States arming rebel forces seeking to overthrow Assad.

"I’ve been watching the Obama administration historically support rebels in other countries who turn out to be enemies of the United States," said Stockman, who was re-elected to the House in November after a 16-year gap.

"If Assad was a committed ally of the U.S., President Obama would probably be already supporting the jihadis," he said.

Freshman Republican Rep. Trey Radel of Florida, who also sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, seconded Stockman’s strong support for Israel.

"Israel is a sovereign nation, and where they feel they have an issue of national security, they have the right to take action," Radel said.

Radel said he is now "very apprehensive about any kind of aid at all" to those seeking to depose the Assad regime that first took power in Damascus when the current president’s father, Hafez al-Assad, assumed the position in 1971.

Radel said many of his House Republican colleagues were disinclined to listen to vocal GOP supporters of sending aid to the rebels.

"We just can’t go in and pick and choose someone to arm in Syria," Radel said. "We could end up funding a group where there is a possibility the weapons we give that group could be turned against us someday. The situation in Syria has roots that go back 1,000 years, so it’s very complicated."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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