Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate in a special election for U.S. Senate, said Thursday that he opposes the use of military force in Syria.
Speaking at the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Paramus, Lonegan said that any American military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would needlessly cost lives and taxpayer money.
Lonegan called on U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, “to join me in urging President Obama not to launch missiles into Syria — missiles that will create destruction, missiles that will create instability.”
Lonegan’s position runs counter to arguments made by Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is pushing for American military intervention.
Menendez said he is convinced by classified intelligence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people.
“A decisive and consequential U.S. response is justified and warranted to protect Syrians as well as to send a global message that chemical weapons attacks in violation of international law will not stand,” he said in a statement Thursday night.
Booker has said a military strike against Syria should be a “last resort.”
“Not exercising military action, which costs many dollars as well as costs civilian lives, should always be our default position,” Booker said earlier this week. His campaign declined to respond to Lonegan’s comments on Thursday.
Lonegan went further than Booker in opposing military action, telling reporters he “will not support another war in the Middle East.”
“We need to search for peace and solutions without missiles,” he said.
If allegations that Assad used chemical weapons against his own people prove to be true, Lonegan said, the United States should join with other nations “to condemn the Assad regime.”
Appearing with Lonegan at his Paramus press conference were several North Jersey immigrants from Syria who said they also were opposed to missile strikes.
Mike Ghassali, a borough councilman in Montvale who came to the United States from Syria when he was 19, said an American attack on his native country “is going to hurt Syria even more.”
“We are begging the U.S. government not to bomb Syria,” he said.
Cyril Aphrem Karim, archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern United States, emphasized that American military involvement in Syria would only intensify existing pressures on the Christian minority there to flee the country.
“As a community of faith, we always advocate peaceful ways of solving conflicts, and the conflict in Syria is no different,” he said. “There must be peaceful ways of solving it because war will not benefit anybody.”
Lonegan’s opposition to a potential military attack on Syria closely hews to his broader outlook on foreign policy.
The former Bogota mayor, who is considered an underdog in his contest against Booker, told The Record’s editorial board last month that the United States cannot act as the world’s police force.
“The Middle East has been very much damaged by American interference in the past decade,” he said.
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