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Associated Press
Demonstrators participate Saturday in a church-organized protest opposing military intervention in Syria in Indianapolis.

Coats says most Hoosiers oppose attacking Syria

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said Monday that Hoosiers are overwhelmingly against U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war.

After a week of visits to Indiana cities, including Fort Wayne, and “calls and emails by the thousands, the vast majority, shockingly … of Hoosiers I have heard from are opposed to U.S. military engagement in Syria,” Coats said on the Senate floor.

He was the first senator to speak after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., announced plans for the chamber to consider a resolution authorizing President Barack Obama to launch a limited attack against the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons against its citizens in August. In favoring the resolution, Reid said that "sitting on the sidelines won’t make us a better nation tomorrow."

In remarks broadcast by C-SPAN, Coats said his constituents “are war-weary” after a dozen years of American blood being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“They do not see how our 12 years of effort have contributed to our own national security interests,” he said.

But Coats said he will wait until after Obama addresses the nation on Tuesday night before saying whether he will support or oppose a U.S. attack against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wants to hear Obama tell what the U.S. can achieve with a 60-day window of air strikes “beyond a simple token punishment for a horrendous crime and defense of his credibility.”

Obama is trying to make good on his warning that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a “red line” for prompting a U.S. military response, Coats contended, without telling Americans how such a response is in their interests.

“Unfortunately, it appears the purpose of this military attack first and foremost is perhaps to defend his own credibility. I’m certain that if the president had not drawn his red line, we would not be having this discussion,” Coats said in a 15-minute speech.

His questions for Obama included what happens after U.S. missile launches against Syrian targets. How would they influence Islamic extremists fighting with the rebels? Could U.S. intervention cause the civil war to spill over into neighboring countries?

“Will an attack intended to slap Assad’s wrists while defending Obama’s credibility make expansion of the conflict more likely or less likely?” Coats asked.

And he wondered how Assad ally and U.S. foe Iran might react, and whether U.S. forces are already stretched too thin to contain an emboldened Iran.

“My constant fear here … has been that our country has been too militarily, politically and economically exhausted to confront the real strategic enemy when our core interests require it,” he said. “I fear a Syria attack will make this problem even more difficult.”