Levin Floor Statement on ISIS Amendment

Sep 17, 2014 Issues: Foreign Affairs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) today made the following statement on the House floor in support of an amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would authorize the Department of Defense and Department of State to train and equip vetted elements of the Syrian opposition to fight ISIS:

The threat from ISIS is real.  All of us have seen the violence and barbarism of ISIS. The rapid advance of ISIS militants within Iraq and Syria is an immediate threat to these countries and the region. No one should be under any delusion about what will happen if the U.S. sits this one out.  If unchecked, the ISIS threat will grow and become even more difficult to address down the road, and directly threaten our nation.

As we have seen since President Obama authorized limited air strikes against ISIS in August, we have the ability to mitigate the ISIS threat.  But we cannot defeat ISIS by ourselves with U.S. airstrikes.

Thomas Friedman said it well in the New York Times:  “ISIS loses if our moderate Arab-Muslim partners can unite and make this a civil war within Islam – a civil war in which America is the air force for the Sunnis and Shiites of decency versus those of barbarism…. It is about them and who they want to be.” 

As I see it, an important aspect of U.S. assistance in this amendment in the training Syrian rebels, is that it will be the occasion for nations with a Sunni majority to join in the battle against the fanatical Sunni ISIS.  Hopefully this can lead to expanded involvement of other nations in this battle at the same time as Iraq’s Shia majority – with our active encouragement – finally provides full rights and participation for its Sunni and Kurdish minorities.  So amidst all the difficulties and the challenges, and they are serious and many, this amendment can serve as a stepping stone to a broad-based, effective coalition against the spread of ISIS. Our country can provide air support, intelligence, and other logistics, but in the end it cannot achieve for the people of Syria and Iraq on the ground what they can only do for themselves.