Local delegation differs on potential strike on Syria

Many politicians reserving judgment until next week’s vote on U.S. action

With President Barack Obama set to address the nation Tuesday on the conflict in Syria, area representatives have offered mix reactions to whether the U.S. should approve the use of military force in the wake of the country’s alleged use of chemical weapons that killed hundreds near Damascus.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield who, represents Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, is “leaning no at this point,” said his communications director, Jameson Cunningham.

Cunningham said that Hultgren attended a classified briefing Thursday for members of Congress where the administration presented evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its citizens, but the information did not convince Hultgren that the U.S. should engage in a military strike.

On his website, Hultgren wrote that although he found the briefing informative, he said the president “failed to make a compelling case for why it is in the national interest of the United States to engage our military in Syria.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said he is in favor of a U.S. missile strike against Syria as a response to the use of chemical weapons.

“My hope is to find the military unit that possibly was involved and hit their headquarters to cause a direct price for gassing civilians,” Kirk said at an Aug. 26 meeting in the Quad Cities, as reported by the Quad-City Times. “I think there needs to be consequences.”

Attempts to reach Kirk’s staff were unsuccessful Friday.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., left the door open for the possibility of a military strike, writing on his website that Syria’s use of chemical weapons is a “moral outrage.” But the senator added he opposes committing U.S. troops to the fight.

“If we can do something to discourage Assad and others like him from using chemical weapons without engaging in a war and without making a long-term military commitment of the United States, I’m open to that debate,” Durbin wrote.

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton who serves the 6th Congressional District, has not made public statements on Syria and won’t do so until at least Monday, when he will be briefed on the classified information, said his communications director, Stephanie Kittredge.

Bill Foster, D-Naperville who serves the 11th Congressional District, wrote on his website that he plans to gather more information before forming an opinion on the issue.

“Once we fully understand our options and the potential outcomes, we must have a rigorous and open debate before making the very difficult choice of how to respond,” he wrote.

An Associated Press survey found 34 senators in support or leaning in favor of authorizing military action, 32 against or leaning that way and 34 undecided ahead of votes next week. Tallies in the House show a significant number of Republicans and Democrats also are opposed to military action or leaning against it.

The president acknowledged deep challenges Friday in winning support for a military strike against Syria from international allies and Congress.

The White House released a joint statement from the U.S. and 10 other countries announcing support for “efforts undertaken by the United States” to enforce an international prohibition on chemical weapons use. The statement did not specify military action against Syria, but administration officials said the intent was to show international support for that type of response.

The countries signing the statement with the U.S. were Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

But Britain’s Parliament already has voted against military action. Even French President Francois Hollande, who has expressed willingness to form a military coalition with the U.S. against Syria, displayed sudden caution, saying he would wait until a United Nations investigation into the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack was released before deciding whether to intervene militarily. The U.N. report is not expected to be released until mid- to late September.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.