Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday voted against the United States training and arming Syrian rebels. Sanders said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “is a brutal and dangerous extremist organization which must be defeated, but this war cannot be won by the United States alone. There needs to be a real international coalition led by the countries most threatened – Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and Iran. The worst thing that we can do now is allow ISIS to portray this struggle as East vs. West, as Muslim vs. Christian, as the Middle East vs. America. That is exactly what they want and that is exactly what we should not be giving them.”
The senator faulted wealthy Middle East nations for doing too little to protect their own interests, especially when Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world. He also questioned why American taxpayers are footing the bill when royal families that rule those Mideast nations are worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
“This is not just a question of whether young men and women in Vermont and across America should be putting their lives on the line in another Mideast war. It is not just about whether the taxpayers of our country should once again pay for a war in the Middle East. It is about the reality that, long term, this struggle will never be won by the United States alone. It must be won with the active participation of the Muslim countries in the region,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he supports President Barack Obama’s judicious use of airstrikes which already have shown some success, but in opposing the resolution Sanders said, “I fear very much that supporting questionable groups in Syria who will be outnumbered and outgunned by both ISIS and the Assad regime could open the door to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement.”
The provision to fund forces battling the ISIS terrorist group was included in a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through Dec. 11. The measure, approved by the Senate, had passed the House on Wednesday.