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Alabama Delegation Divided on Arming Syrian Rebels

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, September 17 Congressman Bradley Byrne (R from Montrose) spoke on the House floor in support of an amendment to authorize the arming and training of Syrian rebels as part of the strategy to defeat the barbaric Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) joining Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D from Selma) in support of President Obama’s Syria/Iraq strategy. On the same day, however, Congressman Mo Brooks (R from Huntsville) spoke in opposition to the same measure.

Representative Sewell said in a statement after the vote, “I support the President’s request to train and equip moderate Syrians outside of Syria pursuant to a strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS. The depravity of ISIS’s actions demands strategic action from the United States and our international partners. This is why I supported the bipartisan McKeon Amendment to the Continuing Resolution that provides Title 10 authorization for the Pentagon to arm, train and equip appropriately vetted members of the Syrian opposition to combat both ISIS and the Syrian President Bashar Assad. To achieve a lasting solution, I believe that Syrians should be on the front lines defending their own people against the aggression of ISIS and the oppression of the Assad regime. ISIS poses a serious threat to our national security and to do nothing is unacceptable. This is the most responsible course of action.”

Representative Brooks said, “I just voted against authorizing President Obama to raise, train and arm a rebel army to fight in Syria’s civil war. I have many reservations about this strategy. To name a few, if America recruits, trains and arms a rebel army in Syria, there is a high risk that the President’s rebel army will ultimately be a foe of the United States, with American weapons once again being used against America and our allies. Additionally, the President promises that there will be no American combat troops in Syria. If the President will never use America’s military superiority to ensure victory in Syria, then America should not embroil itself in Syria’s civil war.”

Congressman Byrne said, “I believe we must do everything we can to defeat this vile enemy known as ISIL. Time is of the essence here. With each passing day, ISIL continues to get stronger. The President has finally asked for a very limited authorization, not of force, but for training and supplying. Based upon the information that I’ve received, I believe arming and training Syrian rebels is an important first step.”

Congressman Brooks said, “I emphasize that today’s vote does not retard in any way, shape or form the President’s ability to apply American military force, or a multi-nation coalition’s force, to defeat the Islamic State. The question and vote Congress faced was limited to whether it is in America’s best interest to raise, train and arm a rebel force to fight in Syria’s civil war. I do not believe it is.”

Rep. Bryne said, “Just a few weeks ago, I joined Chairman McKeon and a few other colleagues on a trip to the Middle East. While there we met with numerous foreign leaders and defense officials. One thing became very clear: there is regional interest and support for defeating ISIL, but they are waiting on our leadership.” “Now I believe arming and training the Syrian rebels to be a necessary step, but I do not believe it alone will be sufficient. Just this morning Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey expressed that more action will likely be needed.” “Our enemy should not just be ‘degraded’ or ‘contained.’ Our enemy must be defeated. In order to accomplish that objective, more action will be needed including overt help from Sunni Muslims in the region and air attacks from the United States. It’s also important to note the safeguards Chairman McKeon has written into this amendment. This amendment requires that each fighter be thoroughly vetted by the Department of Defense and that regular progress reports be provided to Congress.”

The amendment was sponsored by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R) and would authorize “the Secretary of Defense to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups or individuals.” The amendment also requires that the Administration prepare detailed reports and progress updates on the vetting process and monitoring procedures for Congress.

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Rebels revolted against decades of rule by the Assad family in the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2012. Since then the loose collection of rebels have seized vast swaths of disputed territory in Syria. The largest such group, ISIS/ISIL invaded Western Iraq in June and has begun exterminating Christians, other religious minorities, and their opponents on both sides of the border. Assad and Iran both call for a united effort against ISIS…..a move that would almost certainly give Assad a victory in the Syrian Civil War which has claimed over 150,000 lives. President Obama has rejected that strategy in favor of supporting Syrian rebels who are supposedly at war with both ISIS and Assad.

Based on original reporting by the Associated Press, President Obama’s Syria strategy suffered a setback on September 9 when the head of one of Syria’s largest rebel groups was killed in a suicide bombing along with other rebel leaders and many of his top commanders and supporters. Hassan Aboud of Ahrar al-Sham was the leader of an ultraconservative Syrian rebel group. The bombing occurred in the northwestern town of Ram Hamdan in the Syrian province of Idlib. Ahrar al-Sham is an ultraconservative Islamist group, but has worked with more moderate rebel groups trying to oust President Bashar Assad and has fought ISIS.

The Syrian rebels amendment was just part of the bigger H.J. Res 124 – Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015 funding package.

Rep. Sewell said, “Today, I voted in favor of the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2015, because it ensures that hard-working Americans and their families can continue to have access to the government programs and services they and their families depend upon. In addition to funding government operations through December 11, 2014, this bill includes additional funding to address the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, the U.S. border agencies efforts to control the influx of child migrants, and the extension of the Export-Import Bank. I am glad that a bipartisan agreement was reached today to address these three urgent issues and avoid the needless uncertainty and economic harm caused by a government shutdown.”

President Obama was asking for funding to send up to 3,000 U.S. troops and medical personnel to West Africa to fight the growing Ebola plague there.

Some conservatives led by Freedomworks had opposed extending the decades old Export-Import bank.

The resolution passed in the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 319-108 and has been sent to the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate for final approval before going to the President’s desk.

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AlabamaWorks releases business survey to identify COVID-19 impact

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AlabamaWorks has announced a new tool for all businesses, large and small, related to the COVID-19 impact and future focus of the workforce in the state.

The Alabama COVID-19 Workforce Response Survey is designed to help the state fully understand the impact of this pandemic on the state’s workforce as well as provide a clear path forward for businesses, industry and state government.

“I am grateful to the Alabama Workforce Council for developing and deploying this much needed and user-friendly survey,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “As we work together to combat COVID-19’s impact, this tool will allow us to identify the needs of business and industry, resources that can help them and how we can best support Alabama’s businesses owners and hardworking Alabamians and their families.”

The official survey, which is critical for helping individual industry sectors recover from COVID-19, is available here: http://sm.aidt.edu/alabamaworks-survey.

“While these are challenging times, we fully understand that now, more than ever, business and industry leaders must continue to work together with Governor Ivey’s administration and various state agencies to move us all forward together,” noted Alabama Workforce Council Chairman Tim McCartney. “Rest assured there is an unwavering commitment to do everything we can to minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on our businesses, our economy, the state and all of its citizens. Using the results from this survey, I know we can all make a difference in combating the challenges from this pandemic facing so many throughout Alabama.”

Responses to the survey will be accepted through Tuesday, April 21 at 5 p.m. All businesses are highly encouraged to participate as the responses will help to protect Alabama’s workforce, manage the impact of COVID-19 and guide the allocation of various resources.

Additionally, another tool was released earlier this week for hard-working Alabamians from Governor Ivey’s office to help connect people to resources and resources to people. ALtogetherAlabama.org is a one-stop-shop for all Alabamians meant to connect businesses, nonprofits, and people that need help with the available resources during this time.

For more information and resources on Alabama’s COVID-19 workforce recovery efforts please visithttps://alabamaworks.com/coronavirus/.

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Manufacture Alabama launches “Ask the Experts” webinar

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Ask the Experts: Employment Law Questions Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic is a new webinar being offered by Manufacture Alabama.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, disrupting the lives of everyone around our state, country, and the globe, employers are left with many questions and Manufacture Alabama wants to answer them.

Manufacture Alabama is the only trade association in the state dedicated exclusively to the competitive, legislative, regulatory, and operational interests and needs of manufacturers and their partner industries and businesses.

Manufacture Alabama has enlisted some of the top labor and employment attorneys in Alabama to bring you the first installment of a web series, ‘Ask the Experts.’ In the first installment, their experts will be answering your questions about implementing the new CARES Act Leave guidelines, and best practices for what to do if you have an employee test positive for COVID-19.

The attorneys will also be covering questions whether they are questions related to OSHA standards, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or the impact of the CARES Act, or anything else labor or employment-related.

Manufacture Alabama also wants to hear stories of the changes manufacturers have experienced in the workplace as a result of the pandemic, and how businesses have changed day to day operations.

Send your questions and responses regarding these topics to [email protected] and stay tuned.

The webinar will be published Tuesday, April 14.

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Governor awards grant to encourage entrepreneurship

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Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $580,000 to give a lift to innovation and entrepreneurship in Alabama.

The grant to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama will help support the Alabama Launchpad, a program that encourages entrepreneurship in the state and nurtures new businesses.

“Innovation is alive and well in Alabama, and now more than ever as we work to rise above the coronavirus pandemic, we need every resource and program available to regain our footing,” Gov. Ivey said. “This program is a true representation of the American and the Alabama spirit to beat the odds at a time when we need it most.”

The Alabama Launchpad supports annual business plan competitions and provides contacts and guidance in the business, banking and academic areas to help participating upstart businesses succeed.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant from the Alabama Research Alliance Trust Fund. Interest earned by the trust fund supports projects pertaining to new technology and innovation.

Gov. Ivey notified Steve Sowell, EDPA vice president, that the grant had been approved.

ADECA administers a wide range of programs that support law enforcement, victim programs, economic development, water resource management, energy conservation and recreation.

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Health

Lt. Gov. Ainsworth calls on churches, citizens to ring bells on Easter Sunday

Bill Britt

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Most churches in Alabama will not hold public services on Easter Sunday in compliance with the state’s stay-at-home order.

“Join us in ringing your church bell or a bell at home this Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus,” Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth posted on social media.

In remembrance of the holy day, Ainsworth began a social media movement #RingForTheResurrection asking churches and citizens across Alabama to ring bells at noon on Easter Sunday.

“Social distancing guidelines require us to remain apart from our extended families, church members, and other individuals on a sacred religious holiday that normally encourages us to gather together,” Ainsworth said.  “But I realized that the simple act of ringing a bell can allow us to remain physically distant while being united in spirit.”

“We can stand together in unity – even as we’re staying apart,” he further wrote.

“Matthew 28:6 proclaims the hope that lives with the resurrection of Christ,” wrote Ainsworth. “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

Ainsworth’s message is trending under #RingForTheResurrection

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in Alabama, Ainsworth has been one of the state’s strongest and most active proponents of social distancing and self-isolation as a means to halt its spread, but he has also sought ways to bring the state’s citizens together even as they remain apart.

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“My wife, Kendall, our twin boys, Hunter and Hays, and our daughter, Addie, will be among those ringing a bell at noon on Sunday to celebrate the miracle of Easter,” Ainsworth said.  “While Gov. Ivey’s stay-at-home order, the public’s health and safety, and simple common sense prevent Christians from gathering in large groups even on the holiest of days, all of us can join together in spirit as we ring a bell to recognize that Christ has risen.”

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