Senator Tom Harkin says his “yes” vote this week on a federal budget plan that included money for arming and training rebels inside Syria was mainly to keep the federal government operating ‘til December 11. Harkin says he needs to know more from President Obama about the mission against Islamic militants before he’d vote to provide more money to the effort.
“We’ve got at least two months anyway to see what the president does and how he fashions this and how he shapes it,” Harkin says. “I think that gives us some time to do a little bit more analyzing of just what he wants to do there.”
Harkin says Saudi Arabia should do more to help defeat the terrorists who’ve formed what they call an Islamic State in portions of Syria and Iraq.
“Saudi Arabia has, well I’m close, 225 F15s. They’ve got a whole bunch of Tornadoes — those are French jets. Where are they? Why aren’t they providing the air cover?” Harkin asks. “…Where are the Turks? The Turks have a long border there. They’re part of NATO. They have all kinds of aircraft. Where are the Turks in this? Hopefully some of these answers will be forthcoming in the next month or so.”
Officials in Saudi Arabia have offered to allow those who volunteer to fight ISIS in Syria to be trained in Saudi Arabia. Harkin says that’s not enough.
“We know, from intelligence and other things, that the Saudis have been funding for years jihadist movements from Pakistan to Algeria and Morocco,” Harkin says. “So it’s time for the Saudis to figure out whose side they really are on.”
Harkin says his “problem” with the Saudis dates date to 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. And Harkin says he’s concerned the U.S. may find itself back in a ground war in the Middle East. Harkin made his comments tonight during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.