While Enzi said he’s waiting to see what plan will be brought to the Senate this week, he sounded very doubtful of supporting even a targeted attack against the military forces of Syrian President Basha al-Assad for the supposed use of chemical weapons to kill civilians. Even if such a strike takes place, Enzi, who has met Assad twice, isn’t sure what good that would do.
“I don’t think he feels that threatened yet,” the Wyoming Republican said. “I think he still feels he could win.”
He said there are other concerns that he heard during his travels across Wyoming in the past month: What bigger conflict could be touched off, what will the cost be, and what positive development can come from such strikes?
“I haven’t found any real American interest in there,” Enzi said during an exclusive interview with the Powell Tribune Friday. “There are bad guys on both sides — which bad guys are we going to support?”
Enzi met Assad in 2009 and 2011.
He went with a group of senators in December 2009 through January 2010 to Afghanistan, India and Syria and met with all of the heads of state of those countries, according to Enzi’s staff. The meeting with President Assad took place in Damascus on Dec. 30, 2009.
“He was very regal in his palace,” Enzi recalled.
He met with Assad, also in Damascus, a second time on Feb. 22, 2011, during a tour of Turkey, Syria and Israel with other senators. This time, Enzi said, Assad seemed to want to cast himself more as a president and not an absolute ruler of a nation that he and his late father Havez al-Assad have dominated since 1971.
“He talked about when he and his family went down to the market and mingled with the people,” Enzi said.
He said Assad also said Israel should give up the Golan Heights, long an area of dispute between the Arab nations and Israel.
Enzi said he would not announce how he would vote on a proposed Senate resolution supporting President Obama until he studies it.
“I’m not going to give away my vote until I know what I am voting on,” he said.
But Enzi’s doubts came through loud and clear during the interview, and later that night at the Lovell Community Center, where he met with Republicans during a meet-and-greet event that also included Gov. Matt Mead.
Enzi said he wants to know what allies the USA would have in such a conflict. “Russia and China could help us solve this,” he said.
But Enzi said America had “no significant allies” and faces the dual danger of “going out on our own” and starting trouble with neighboring Arab nations. He was also worried that Obama was tipping his hand to Syria, which could put Americans at risk.
also not on board
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., made his views clear on Thursday when he voted against a resolution authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s markup. The committee approved the resolution by a vote of 10-7 with one senator voting present.
“Over the last two years, the Assad regime has committed terrible atrocities against thousands of innocent men, women and children in Syria,” Barrasso said in a statement. “I join the rest of America in strongly condemning these awful acts of violence.”
He said without an “ultimate objective and an overall strategic plan,” he could not support a strike.
“There is nothing of more consequence to me as a U.S. senator than a vote on whether or not to involve American military forces, and so far I believe the administration has failed to present a strategy that justifies this action,” Barrasso said.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., also remains skeptical of such an incursion.
“This conflict in Syria is a civil war and should be dealt with by the Arab world,” Lummis said. “I do not see how getting involved in another open-ended and costly conflict is in the best interest of America.
“The president had done the right thing in asking for a vote days after my colleagues and I sent the administration a letter demanding consultation of Congress,” she said. “However, the only reason for action I’ve seen so far is to save face for the president who drew a red line for Assad to cross.”
The White House claims a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21 killed 1,429 people, many of them women and children. More than 110,000 people reportedly have been killed in the civil war since March 2011, and more than 2 million refugees created by the conflict.
Enzi said Obama helped create a crisis environment this summer and now wants the Senate and House to help bail him out.
“The president is trying to blame Congress instead of himself for comments he made before,” he said. “His red line, he wants to make our red line. The only time the president consults Congress is when he needs to defer the blame.”
Enzi said he thinks in the end, Obama will order air strikes no matter what Congress does.
“I think that’s been his intention all along,” he said. “I think he thinks he will be a hero, but I think he will be a goat.”