September 8, 2013 -- New York -- 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.
“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
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.