The situation in Syria

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Recent developments in Syria have brought the Middle Eastern country to the center of debate in Congress and to the forefront of Americans’ minds.  What started a few years ago as peaceful protests against the Syrian government has spiraled into an intense civil war.  Since then, the violence has escalated between the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces as death tolls continue to rise and Syrians flee the country en masse.


Last summer, reports of alleged Assad regime plans to use chemical weapons led President Obama to remark that the use of these weapons would constitute a “red line” and cause him to change his approach. Sadly, the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons recently became clear.  United States intelligence has confirmed the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people in June 2013, and again in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21, 2013. 


Following this attack on the Syrian people, President Obama made his intentions known for U.S. military intervention in Syria and asked Congress to approve a military strike.  While the President acted appropriately in asking Congress for this authorization, his proposed response, his support from the international community, and his outreach to the American public has created more questions than answers.  To be clear, the use of chemical weapons is despicable, and I do not condone this attack on Syrian civilians.  However, after receiving a classified briefing and carefully reviewing the classified intelligence made available to Members of Congress, I concluded that I could not support the proposed resolution pending in the Senate. 


The Administration has failed to clearly state both the scope and objective of a military strike.  Simply put, we do not know what the outcome of an ill-conceived military strike would entail.  Any time our country enters into military action, we must consider the consequences to our Armed Forces, to innocent civilians, to other countries, and to our national security interests.  I have closely considered all of the relevant information, including the classified materials presented to Members of Congress to justify the use of force, and I have listened to the concerns of my constituents. I do not believe it would be in the best interest of our Armed Forces and the United States of America to authorize the President's proposed use of military force in Syria.


In President Obama’s address to the nation a few days ago, he asked Congress to postpone their vote and spoke of diplomacy between Syria, Russia, and the United States to degrade Syria’s chemical weapon supply.  We should continue to put pressure on the Syrian regime to turn over their chemical weapon supplies to an international body and deter an attack of this nature in the future.  As this process moves forward, I will closely monitor the progress of these diplomatic efforts