U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley
September 5, 2013


U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, Wednesday forcefully challenged the Obama's administration's plans to use a missile strike on Syria in the aftermath of alleged government-directed chemical warfare in that Middle East nation.

In an interview at The Daily Times Herald offices, Braley, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014, said President Obama and his advisers have presented a leaky case for military action in Syria, one fraught with trip wires for unintended consequences and deeper involvement.

"What guarantee do you have that a limited strike will not lead to a response that requires a further response that escalates and finds us involved in a land war in Syria?" Braley said. "I don't have that assurance based on what I've seen."

On Monday, Braley will be at a classified briefing on Syria, loaded with questions for the administration - and an open mind.

"I am undecided but highly skeptical," Braley said.

While such briefings arm Braley with intelligence analysis not available to his constituents, the Waterloo Democrat said he's mindful of the consensus view of Iowans.

"I'm traveling around the state listening to Iowans who are uniformly opposed to a military intervention in Syria," Braley said, adding that the opinions of war-weary Iowans will inform his vote on the force-authorizing resolution that will go before Congress.

Braley stressed he believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad loosed chemical weapons on his own citizens.

"The most important thing to me is what has happened in Syria," Braley said. "I believe, based on the evidence I've seen, that war crimes have been committed in core violation of the Geneva Convention and international law - and that the international community should be outraged by that, the same way it was with what was going on in Darfur, when a lot of progressives were calling for action."

Braley said the international community could hold Assad accountable through a prosecution at The Hague where former Liberian President Charles Taylor is in detention after being sentenced for war crimes.

"I don't believe that the case has been made that the way you hold the Assad regime accountable for those war crimes is by sending some cruise missiles in to send a message," Braley said.

Braley is particularly concerned with Iran's potential reaction to any U.S. move in Syria.

"You run the risk of lighting a powder keg in the Mideast when Iran has already said if the U.S. attacks Syria, they will wipe Israel off the face of the earth," Braley said. "Now they have a tendency to make claims like that all the time. But given the stakes, given their efforts to develop nuclear capabilities, and given their close relationship with the Assad regime, I think you have to assume that some kind of response is going to be forthcoming. And that is going to run the risk of dragging us into a quagmire."

Braley, who urged Obama to bring the Syrian matter to Congress, said the president has not exhausted all diplomatic and international-coalition-based strategies.

"I don't think that the singular military response that he is proposing is going to lead to the outcome I think that we should be pursuing," Braley said.

The congressman said he's troubled by leaders of nations allied to the United States who are acting the part of "armchair quarterbacks," and expect America to play the "good cop" who enforces all international laws and conventions.

Braley said he remembers an ad he shot in his first congressional campaign in the 2006 election cycle "when we were involved in a quagmire in Iraq based on faulty intelligence."

The ad pointed out that only Congress can authorize going to war, Braley said, noting that the decision on Syria is one of the more significant of his career.

"I ran for Congress based upon (opposition to) a misguided effort to get involved in a military conflict in Iraq," Braley said.