AJC Urges Congress to Support President Obama's Call for Military Action on Syria

Sep 08, 2013, 11:48 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, Sept. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is urging the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to "do the right thing and authorize limited military action" against the Bashar al-Assad regime, following its chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21st.

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"The stakes for the United States, and the world, could not be any higher," said AJC Executive Director David Harris in an article published in the Huffington Post and Jerusalem Post. "If the United States now flinches, and despite our declared 'red line,' let's Syria get away with the use of chemical weapons, then what is the message sent to the world?"

The renewed AJC call for firm Congressional action follows an AJC letter, sent to all Senators and Representatives last week, calling on them to support a resolution authorizing President Obama to respond militarily to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Harris expressed profound disappointment in the international community's lack of coordinated reaction to the Assad regime's use of sarin gas, in an attack that left nearly 1,500 Syrians, a third of them children, dead.

The G-20 was divided, with ten countries supporting the American position and nine unwilling to do so, on a condemnation of the Assad regime's attack on his own people, even though it constituted a material breach of international norms, including the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prohibits the use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime, under Bashar and, before him, his late father, Hafez, has amassed one of the largest supplies of chemical weapons in the world.

"Yes, it would obviously be better if the UN Security Council, could come together and act in unison against the Assad regime's reprehensible use of chemical weapons," said Harris. "But the U.S. ought to assert its moral leadership and take action, since China and especially Russia, as of today, will not allow the Security Council to act even in the face of these horrific crimes."

Harris warned that a U.S. failure to respond now would lead to an even more dangerous world: "Would the Syrians or others revert again to chemical weapons, and would the death toll mount into the tens of thousands the next time?"

As Congress begins debate tomorrow on possible U.S. military action, and President Obama prepares to address the nation on Tuesday, Harris stressed that the world, especially America's adversaries, are watching closely what the U.S. will do.

Inaction by the U.S. will be seen "as an abdication of American leadership, which, in turn, will invite still more challenges to American interests and values," said Harris. "Leaders from Tehran to Pyongyang will become still more assertive, emboldened and threatening, as they conclude that Americans are unwilling to match deed with word."

Harris also stressed in his article that AJC's position is not an act of partisanship in support of the Administration, as this is "not about an individual but our country."

He also emphasized that AJC does not support an open-ended military attack or one involving American boots on the ground. And finally, he pointed out that, just as America's adversaries were watching to see how the U.S. would act, so were America's allies in the region, who need to be reassured that Washington stands behind its word when it declares a red line, whether with respect to Syria's use of chemical weapons or, for that matter, Iran's nuclear ambitions.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee