Alex Witt   |  May 26, 2013

How the Syrian crisis is affecting the rest of the region

Congressman Peter Welch, D-Vt., was in a delegation this month to Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan where he was afforded an in-depth look at the impact of the Syrian crisis. He joins MSNBC’s Alex Witt to comment on his takeaway from the trip. The challenge of discerning which rebels to arm contributes to the difficulty in committing military aid within Syria. Rep. Welch comments on international diplomacy in dealing with Syria. He switches gear and offers his opinion on the IRS controversy and potential ways of dealing with the investigation to block future problems.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> new reason today for the u.s. to worry about what's happening inside syria because for the first time the terror group hezbollah isn't just talking about support for president bashar assad , they are declaring a commitment to fight. hezbollah 's leader address ed followers via video promising victory against rebel forces. the most direct admission yet that hezbollah is fighting alongside assad 's army. i want to bring in vermont democratic congressman peter welch who joined a delegation in turkey this month as well as afghanistan and pakistan where he looked at the impact of the syrian crisis and representative welch, give me your takeaway from the trip and how concerned you are about hezbollah 's bold commitment to defeating rebels?

>> well, it's a tragic humanitarian catastrophe and it creates a the lot of additional political instability. but what hezbollah is doing is not news really. they're just admitting what we've known they've been doing all along, and that's aligning themselves with the repressive assad government with iran and frankly with iraq , the shia leadership in iraq . so what you've got is a caldron of enormous factionism that is very unstable and very dangerous. a humanitarian ka tcatastrophe. the real challenge, is this something where the united states could get militarily involved either with the no-fly zone, with boots on the ground , or trying to discern which rebels we should arm? and, frankly, i do not see this as a situation, tragic as it is, that really lends itself to our shooting our way to a solution. we've seen what happened in iraq and afghanistan.

>> right. before getting to the u.s. involvement just this week three of europe's most powerful governments, britain, germany, france as well, they say they want the eu to classify hezbollah as a terror organization. now that is a move the u.s. made decades ago. if the eu goes through with it, how does that affect hezbollah ?

>> well, i think it further isolates hezbollah , and i hope the eu does do that. the big question here is, is there some military solution that we can take? there's enormous gravitational pool to want to do something definitive and that usually argues for something military but, in fact, the military option is very limited. i mean, there is enormous historic divisions within syria . assad has repressed them with his autocratic rule and the rebels are somewhat united against assad , but if they bring him down, then it will be score settling time with them. i actually think secretary kerry is on the right track here, the most promising is to try to get russia to work with us and with the eu and with the arab states to see if there's some kind of political approach that we can take to restore some stability.

>> but with regard to coalescing and figuring out an approach, the syrian rebels themselves, sir, can't even coalesce around one leader. so how does the u.s. become influential in trying to help that at least happen? how can you back up rebels if you don't even know exactly what the plan is and what the protocol is from one particular group to another?

>> well, see, i think you're 100% right. there's no way we can micro-manage the outcome and, in fact, the facts on the ground , i think, are going to be much more relative whether the parties that are killing each other want to come to a political solution, in which case the outside powers, not just the u.s. but the soviet -- russia and the eu and the arab states could then play possibly a constructive role. i think you've identified exactly what the problem is. this is a long-standing escalation of a civil war , and the last thing america should do is take steps that would americanize what is a brutal and tragic civil war in syria .

>> we're going to change gears here now and speak about the irs and alleged targeting of groups. in a press release last year you said you encouraged the irs , and this is chess close to the quote, whether organizations affiliated with super pacs such as the karl rove backed. why did you make that push and, in hindsight, do you think you may have given them the authorization to single out those with political leanings?

>> the letter we sent would apply whether it was a karl rove letter or not. we sent that letter, as it turns out, a year and a half after the irs had already done this. i have two concerns, one, we do have to get to the bottom of what happened at the irs . if they are targeting a group, that's totally unacceptable and people who did it have to be fired or prosecuted. our campaign finance system is a mess. this is a case where the irs was doing its job very badly but should they be doing its job at all? should nonprofit organizations be used by folks who have legitimate political agendas? should they be able to run their operations through nonprofits? it doesn't really make a lot of sense. so i think actually we should take the irs out of this business and not provide that avenue for liberal or conservative graups basically to be hiding their donors and funneling the money which, in a way, is a rip-off the taxpayers.

>> where do you think the investigation goes from here and how do you think americans will define justice having been serve ed? is it just with the firings? is that going to quell the uproar? you need more than that.

>> no. here is what i think we need. we need to follow the facts where they go. and we have to come on the basis of that investigation to a conclusion as to whether this was mismanagement and sloppy work, in which case folks who are responsible should be fired, or was there a higher up political motivation, political agenda and political operation that was targeting folks in which case there should be prosecution but people have to, at the end of the day , have can have did dense that the irs and any other governmental agency will apply the principle of equal enforcement of the law and protect free speech.

>> representative peter welch , many thanks for your time. have a great memorial day .

>> thank you.