Senator Ed Markey Makes Up His Mind About Syria

He's against it. But only after Syria welcomed a proposal to hand over chemical weapons to Russia in order to avoid U.S. intervention.

As news spread that Syria was open to discussions about handing over its chemical weapons to Russian officials in order to avoid a U.S. intervention, Senator Ed Markley finally made up his mind about where he stands on the issue.

In a statement on Tuesday, just days after his notorious “present” vote, Markey said he can’t support a missile strike overseas, calling the move “too broad” and unpredictable. “I believe we must give diplomatic measures that could avoid military action a chance to work,” Markey said in a statement.

Markey also said that President Barack Obama’s administration’s intended military action is designed to deter and degrade President Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s chemical weapons capability, something he understands:

“I agree with such intentions—the use of chemical weapons is a heinous and horrific act outside the bounds of civilized conduct. However, I am concerned about the unintended consequences of the strikes and the potential for triggering an even greater conflagration that could be beyond our ability to predict or control.”

Markey’s initial vote on Syrian intervention was met by skepticism from people on both sides of the political spectrum last week during a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The freshman Senator was scrutinized for skirting the issue during his first major vote as a newly elected official representing Massachusetts in one of the two Senate seats. A “present” vote is neither a “yes” nor “no” vote, which irked the masses. (He was the only member of the committee to vote “present.”)

But Markey claimed Tuesday that now that he had time to review crucial documents pertaining to the Syrian conflict, he felt he could take a stance on the subject:

“After weighing all the information, I do not dispute the evidence that the administration has presented about Assad’s use of chemical weapons. However, I do not believe that the resolution as currently written is the most effective way for our country to accomplish its objectives in Syria. Moreover, I believe that such a military strike could actually make it more difficult for our nation to achieve its goals in this volatile region of the world.”

But his latest opinion on the crisis may not matter. On Monday night, negotiations began between Russia, Syria, and the U.S., to discuss ways to steer clear of an attack, stalling Congressional talks about authorizing a strike. Markey noted the latest revelations as one of three reasons that he changed his mind about his initial vote. “We should take advantage of this new diplomatic opportunity before we consider military action,” he wrote.

Talks of an intervention have led to protests statewide, including here in Boston, where anti-war advocates gathered on more than one occasion to express their concern about a military attack in the country.

Despite recent talks between Russia, Syria, and the U.S., Obama said in a recent interview that Assad’s agreement to hand over chemical weapons should be “taken with a grain of salt.” The president is expected to make an announcement about the recent discussions on Tuesday night.