Risch on Obama Syria options, immigration reform

You won’t often hear Sen. Jim Risch, R- Idaho, sympathize with President Barack Obama, but he did so Thursday on the subject of how to deal with Syria.

“The President does not have good options,” said Risch, accompanied by his wife, Vicki,  at an Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. ” The state of play in Syria is this: we can all agree that (President Bashar) Assad is a bad guy and should go. So, where do you go from there?”

Unlike the U.S. where diverse people mesh more, Risch — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence –  said Syria lives in sects separated by strong religious affiliations and often divisive political connections.

“Assad is a member of about a 14 percent minority. Sunnis make up about 60 percent. The opposition is a conglomerate of a number of these groups, not the least of which is an Al Qaeda affiliate. So, if you’re going to take the other side, you’re gonna be sidling up to Al Qaeda and some others, unsavory characters. But then all of them create kind of a Rubik’s Cube of a problem. ”

The big question? “What happens the day after Assad’s gone?”

Nobody knows and, thus, the apprehension to get involved. But Risch promises that a post-Assad Syria “won’t be pretty.”

It is hard to imagine it getting uglier than Assad using chemical weapons on his own people, but Risch warns that things could get “messy.”

On immigration, Risch says he has not reached the level of being “cautiously optimistic” about some deal getting done. He does advocate adopting a piecemeal approach.

“The guest worker program is a give-and-take proposition that Congress could probably get together and agree on,” Risch said. Immigration reform “ought to be done a piece at a time because there are bridges you can cross.”

He said the tougher climbs will be dealing with the legal status of the people who are here illegally.

“The vast majority of  Congress agrees that you need to do a better job of controlling the borders, ” Risch said. But he wants more than “better job.” He said he feels “we need to do a for real job — as close to 100 per cent job. If you don’t have border control, why bother with the rest of this stuff?”







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