Syria debate splits Ariz. Congressional delegation

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Three of Arizona's nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives say they're either against or leaning against a resolution requested by President Barack Obama to use force to punish Syria for using chemical weapons against its citizens.

Five of the other six House members are on the fence.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Tuesday that he was ""still listening" to the administration's lobbying, but said it "seems strange" to believe officials' briefings that Syrian targets would be still in place weeks after they were identified.

Obama won conditional support this week from one of his fiercest foreign policy critics, Republican Sen. John McCain. The Arizona senator said Tuesday that he is prepared to vote for the authorization that Obama seeks, but he told NBC he wouldn't back a resolution that fails to change the battlefield equation, where Assad still has the upper hand.

The Associated Press canvassed the state's nine House members for their positions Tuesday, reaching all but Republican Rep. Trent Franks.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva said he was committed to a "no" vote, while saying he believes the president when he says there's proof Syrian Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own citizens.

"The debate is about the use of force, the debate is about unilateral action," Grijalva told the AP. "And having seen what unilateralism has done in the past, in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in the Middle East, this is a quagmire I think we need to avoid, and use the international community as a principal body to level sanctions."

Two Republican House members also are strongly leaning against a use-of-force resolution, according to their spokeswomen.

"As of now, unless something drastically changes, he's leaning towards no," spokeswoman Apryl Marie Fogel said of her boss, Rep. Paul Gosar.

Rep. David Schweikert also was strongly leaning against supporting the resolution.

"David's not convinced there's a U.S. interest and if we get engaged, what's our exit strategy," spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said.

Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Ed Pastor were undecided, while Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said she was undecided, but had concerns about ramifications of a strike.

Undecided on the Republican side was Rep. Matt Salmon, who was among 98 Republicans and 18 Democrats who signed a letter to Obama last week demanding that he seek congressional authorization for any military action against Syria.

"If it is proven that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people there must be consequences; the question for the administration, Congress and the American people, is what should those consequences be," Salmon said in a weekend statement.

Spokeswoman Kristine Michalson said Salmon was traveling to Washington on Tuesday and expects to get a classified briefing and attend a hearing Wednesday. He is on House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A spokesman for Franks did not return calls seeking comment.

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