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Rep. Pompeo discusses Syria at White House

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 9, 2013, at 12 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo met at the White House on Monday to discuss Syria and the upcoming speech by President Obama.

Pompeo, who has called for military action in Syria, had no comment after the meeting and was thinking over all the information he had heard, said a spokesman for the Wichita congressman. He is expected to share his response to the meeting Tuesday.

Pompeo was invited to the meeting by White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough. Others at the meeting included New York Republican Rep. Peter King; Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas; and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich. All support military action in Syria.

Ealier Monday, Pompeo said a week-long trip to the Middle East – as well as harsh criticism of his position among some conservatives and liberals – had not caused him to waver in his decision to advocate for U.S. military action as a response to an alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

“I simply conclude that this president, left to his own devices, will perform more poorly than a president we push back on and engage,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said he thinks Obama should take more forceful action than firing a few missiles as part of a “shot-across-the-bow” strategy, but he also said he wants to avoid sending American troops into Syria.

“I am doing everything I can to make sure America never has to put 20,000 troops in Syria,” Pompeo said, “and doing nothing increases that risk.”

America can use its full array of tactics, including diplomacy, to resolve the situation, he said.

Pompeo’s comments came before Russia proposed placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. He could not be reached for comment on that development.

Obama’s critics have been saying he should reach out to Congress, so Pompeo welcomed Monday’s meeting.

“It’s an opportunity for me to go make the case,” Pompeo said. “Here’s our chance to go engage and move our foreign policy in the right direction.”

While in the Middle East, Pompeo, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, met with diplomats and national security leaders from allies in the area, he said.

Two impressions were striking, he said:

“The first is the enormous frustration at the failed policies of President Obama in the Middle East and how the spot that we’re in today is a direct result of poor and weak leadership,” Pompeo said, citing a lack of response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi as an example.

The second is that inaction by the U.S. in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria “guarantees a poor strategic outcome for America,” Pompeo said.

It would give the militant group Hezbollah momentum, give the green light to Iran to develop its nuclear capabilities and show that America is unwilling to defend itself when the times require it, he said.

Conservatives are right not to trust Obama, he said, but that is why Congress should help steer him in the right direction.

The White House needs to see the Syrian issue in a larger context, Pompeo said. Radical Islamists fighting with the rebels in Syria could come under control of the Ayatollah in Iran if the U.S. does nothing.

Although Obama has said war with terrorists is winding down, that’s not true, Pompeo said.

“The fewer of them on the payroll of Iran, the more safe all of our children and grandchildren will be,” he said. “We have a capacity to influence that.

“I don’t know that I’m very optimistic, but I’m certainly willing to work at it every day.”

Pompeo gave radio, television and newspaper interviews on Monday, the day after he returned from the Middle East, to talk about his position on Syria. Last week, he and Cotton – a member of the House Foreign Affairs committee – co-authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post saying they support “a well-crafted use-of-force resolution against Syria,” and urging Obama “to take decisive, effective military action.”

Opposition among conservatives has grown. Troy Newman, head of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue, has launched an effort called “Remove and Replace Pompeo.”

“I got upset that this person got so out of step with the American people,” Newman said.

Newman started a telephone campaign Sunday using an automated message that accused Pompeo of trying to start World War III by endorsing Obama’s war on Syria. It asked recipients to contact Pompeo and tell him to look after the interests of Kansans, not Obama.

Newman said he plans to put out more than 210,000 of the phone calls by Tuesday.

The phone message also asks recipients to vote for or against military action in Syria. Newman said responses are running 5-to-1 against.

Newman said he will form a political action committee this week and raise funds for radio and television ads against Pompeo.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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