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WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Reed on Tuesday announced his opposition to U.S. military strikes on Syria, saying such attacks could lead to a dangerous escalation of violence in the Middle East.

The Corning Republican has been skeptical of a U.S. missile attack ever since the Obama administration raised that possibility after an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that reportedly claimed more than 1,400 lives.

But in his weekly conference call with reporters, Reed went much further, saying the information he has received from the White House to date, along with feedback from constituents, makes him a likely “no” vote when Congress takes up the issue next week.

“I believe that what we are dealing with is a situation where authorizing the president to engage in these limited airstrikes that he is proposing is dangerous, and absent some compelling information to the contrary, I am not going to support it,” Reed said. “To me, the risk of escalation is great.”

Saying that the lack of a consistent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has contributed to the trouble in Syria, Reed also said he believes that “it is time to focus on America rather than engaging in these military operations overseas.”

Reed’s comments show him siding with the growing libertarian faction in the Republican Party that is skeptical of U.S. military involvement overseas despite the party’s long-standing policy of favoring an assertive American presence around the world.

Reed said that the reported use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime was “despicable” and “appalling” but that this alone was not enough to get him to support a U.S. military strike that could make the situation in the Middle East even worse.

“What we need to make sure we’re doing is that we are not running the risk of escalating this situation in the Middle East, which the president’s proposed limited military strikes have the risk of doing,” Reed said. “To me, his inability to articulate what the next step would be following these limited airstrikes is something that is telling.”

Reed is conducting listening sessions across his district on the Syria issue, and sentiment at a Tuesday morning meeting in Big Flats, Chemung County, was overwhelmingly against an attack, he said.

“We will make sure that we bring the voices of the people here at home to Washington and make sure the president is given the sign that we in Congress will lead,” Reed said.

Reed will hold additional listening sessions at noon today in Jamestown Community College’s Magnano Reception Room and at 3 p.m. in Dunkirk City Hall, 342 Central Ave.

In announcing his opposition to intervention in Syria, Reed joins Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who announced his opposition last week.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, has said that he has concerns about the Syrian situation but that he has not decided whether to support U.S. intervention.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com