U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said Thursday that Alabamians are wary of getting involved in conflict in the Middle East, as the president seeks congressional support for action against Syria’s government for alleged chemical weapons attacks on civilians.
Sessions spoke Thursday to a lunch-time crowd at the Classic on Noble in downtown Anniston as part of a series of annual speaking engagements in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.
Sessions, a Republican from Mobile, stopped short of saying whether he would support or oppose military action in Syria, but said it’s clear to him that his constituents don’t want U.S. involvement in the conflict.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” Sessions said. “People don’t want the U.S. getting involved in another Middle Eastern civil war that we shouldn’t be part of.”
Sessions said it is “unrealistic” for the United States to engage in military strikes “anytime any country somewhere” is involved in a civil war. Sessions said, however, every situation needed to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
“That being said, this is a serious situation,” Sessions said. “This is a very deadly use of poisonous gas that killed women and children.”
The push by the administration of President Barack Obama for a limited military strike in Syria is in response to a chemical weapon attack outside of Damascus, the Syrian capital, last month. Washington officials say the attack killed 1,400 people.
Sessions criticized the president Thursday for not being aggressive with Syria prior to last month’s attack.
“Somehow they thought there wouldn’t be any consequences,” Sessions said. “If the president had taken action earlier, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”
Although the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee this week voted 10 to 7 to authorize military strikes in Syria limited to 60 days, several members of Congress have spoken out against U.S. intervention in the country. According to a recently conducted poll by the Pew research center, 29 percent of American supported military strikes, while 48 percent opposed action.
Although the Senate is expected to vote on authorizing military force in the county next week, it could still be another week before the House of Representatives votes on the matter, potentially delaying action further.
Sessions spoke to a crowd at the Classic that included Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart, Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan, and U.S. Rep. Mike Rodgers, R-Saks, for about 30 minutes before taking a few questions from the media. An aide of the senator said Sessions arranges to meet with the public and local leaders in every Alabama county annually.
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.