Sen. Risch on Syria: 'This is serious, serious business.'

Sen. Risch on Syria: 'This is serious, serious business.'

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 30, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 31 at 3:40 PM

BOISE -- On Friday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry laid out evidence to explain why the Obama administration is looking at taking action against the government of Syria.

According to various government leaders, intelligence shows the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack against opposition in the country last week, killing 1,400 people, many of them children.

Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) was in Boise Friday and was updated throughout the day, as well as in on calls with the White House. He sat down with KTVB to explain his take on the latest in an Only on 7 interview. Below are some transcripted portions. To see the entire interview, click here.

KTVB: "Is this the United States' job to act as kind of a police in what you now say you know looks very likely there was a chemical weapons attack, is it the United States' job to do this?"

Risch: "I think it's probably from a moral standpoint the world's job to do this, but right now, there are very few people backing us up. Indeed Britain, both of their political parties voted against it in Parliament. They have the same facts available that we did: That nerve gas was used, that there were 1,400 people killed, 400 plus were children. They had the same information we have. This is a terrible thing. It's heartbreaking to see this kind of thing happen. Who's job is it? It should be the world's job, but when you have people that are very difficult like this, like the Russians or Iranians, it's hard for anybody to enforce this sort of thing."

Risch described some hesitation at accepting that the Syrian government had really carried out an attack on its people:"Up until recently, in fact as early as this morning, I wasn't fully convinced they had absolute proof it was the al-Assad regime. Because of the intelligence I have seen today, I am very convinced it was the al-Assad regime and not the rebels or someone else that did this."

He also felt like the Obama administration was ready to go into action very quickly, but after hearing a broad array of senators on the White House phone calls, he says the push back, especially from Democrats, makes him think otherwise: "Up until the conference I had with the White House, I really believed that pulling the trigger was imminent. At this point, I'm not so sure. They got a tremendous amount of push back from a number of senators."

KTVB: "[The president] said 'no boots on the ground', and that's something that Americans are sensitive to, especially in that region, do you think there's an appetite for that?"

Risch: "I don't think there's any appetite for that, but that's kind of a simplistic answer. What happens when...? I want to hear the analysis of what happens if you do pull the trigger. You heard his statement that it was going to be a one-shot deal sort of thing is what he described. Well, what happens if al-Assad turns around and ups the ante and kills 5,000 people or 10,000 people with the nerve gas, which he has the capability of doing. What do you do then? This thing needs to be thought out."

Risch says Syria has capabilities and weapons far more sophisticated than other countries in the region and should be dealt with only after very heavy consideration.

KTVB: "What is your biggest fear in how this may be handled moving forward?"

Risch: "My biggest fear is that the president's going to pull the trigger without congressional authorization, and then even if Congress does authorize, My biggest fear is escalation and the unknown. This is a different ball game we're talking about. We're not talking about attacking a country like Afghanistan that had small arms and that was about it. It has very sophisticated weapons when it's talking about this nerve gas."

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