Vitter to vote against U.S. strike on Syria

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Sen. David Vitter said Thursday that he will vote against a U.S. military strike in Syria, becoming the second member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation to register opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposal.

The remaining members in the state’s congressional delegation, including Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, say they are undecided about Obama’s proposed military intervention against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Vitter, a Republican, announced his decision a day after he participated in a classified briefing as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

“As horrible as events in Syria are, they do not pose a direct threat to the United States or our allies. U.S. military action could spark a broader war and/or entangle us in Syria’s protracted civil war in which elements of the opposition are even worse than the Assad regime, all while our troops are underfunded,” Louisiana’s junior senator said in a statement.

Vitter joins GOP Rep. John Fleming of Minden in opposing U.S. intervention.

The Obama administration blames Assad for an Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack against Syrian residents in a rebel-held area of the country. The U.S. says the attack killed more than 1,400 people. Other casualty estimates are lower.

Vitter said a more serious and direct threat to the United States is Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

“I am extremely concerned that getting involved in Syria, after Iraq and Afghanistan, would make mustering our resolve to stop a nuclear Iran impossible,” he said.

Besides Vitter and Fleming, the rest of Louisiana’s congressional delegation remains hesitant about Obama’s request for support of a strike against Syria. At least two more of the state’s congressmen have suggested they are leaning against a U.S. military response.

A spokesman for Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican from Lafayette, said the congressman was “skeptical.”

The dean of Louisiana’s House members, Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander, doesn’t feel it is in the country’s best interest to take military action, but is awaiting the congressional debate before making his final decision, according to spokeswoman Jamie Hanks.

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