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Connolly: Syria 'is not Iraq'

Tuesday - 9/3/2013, 1:43pm  ET

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Rep. Connolly addresses the Syria situation in the WTOP studio. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)

'The evidence is quite strong'

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

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'What's the worst-case scenario?'

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.

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WASHINGTON - Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., says that while Syria "is not Iraq," he is not prepared to support a resolution authorizing military action in Syria as it is currently drawn.

In an interview with WTOP on Tuesday, Connolly says he is "fairly convinced the evidence is quite strong" that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people. Later in the interview, Connolly flatly stated of the accusation against Assad, "We know that."

Speaking with WTOP earlier in the day, Connolly's fellow Virginia congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican, drew parallels between the current situation with the runup to the invasion of Iraq, which he supported. "Don't you think we ought to be careful?," Wolf said.

Connolly empathizes with Wolf's caution, but says the situations are different.

"This is not Iraq," Connolly says. "This is not an administration with a strong agenda and using intelligence to support that agenda in a reckless and shoddy way. ... This president is the opposite. He's arguing 'I don't want to invade,' 'I don't want to put boots on the ground,'" Connolly says, adding that President Obama has been criticized for being reluctant to pick sides in the Syrian civil conflict.

After calls from both sides of the aisle demanding the president get authorization from Congress before beginning military action, Connolly says, "He's done it! He's the first president since FDR to come to the Congress."

That said, asked about the resolution that the administration has put before Congress, Connolly says "the devil's always in the details."

Connolly says the current resolution is too broad for him to support, arguing that it gives President Obama powers beyond what he himself is seeking.

"We have to come up with some wording, if this is going to pass," Connolly says, "that is much more limited in scope, addresses exactly the issues the president has said he wants to address."

Connolly criticizes the current resolution, saying it enables the president to take military action "as he deems appropriate. That's just not gonna fly. After the experience in Iraq, I think Congress feels very burned by the previous administration on both sides of the aisle ... And we want to make sure there is no repeat of that."

At the same time, Connolly says, "We need to unchain ourselves from the analogy of Iraq," adding that the situation in Syria more closely mirrors that situation in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Connolly adds that he's pleased to hear that House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor "have put aside their partisan hats and acted like true American leaders," announcing Tuesday that they would support the concept of military action in Syria.

But again, Connolly says of any specific resolution, "what matters is what's in front of us" and says the current proposal is to broad.

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