FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-5042
Statement from Senator Coons on committee vote on authorization of force in Syria
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement after voting in committee on Wednesday in favor of an authorization for the use of military force in Syria.
“What I have heard from Delawareans in the last week is that ours is a nation weary of war, and wary of repeating the mistakes of the past. The commitment of America's military strength is one of the most important issues that we will ever debate in Congress, and it is one I take very seriously. Although I was not a member of the Senate when Congress authorized broad engagement in the war on terror, concern over the massive intelligence failures in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq has influenced my consideration of whether to authorize military action in Syria. We cannot and should not ignore the lessons of the last decade by engaging in a military intervention that is open-ended or lacks a clearly defined strategy.
“Over the past two and a half years, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has steadily ratcheted up an ascending crescendo of violence against his own people. When I traveled to the region in January, I visited with civilians who’d been forced to flee their homes — and their country — in order to escape these senseless attacks. It began with thugs, police, and the Syrian military taking on peaceful demonstrations, and graduated to using snipers to kill innocent civilians. He has used helicopters and jet fighters against his own people. He has deployed cluster bombs and scud missiles. There is no doubt that Assad and his regime are willing to go to any length to stay in power, including the continued use of chemical weapons.
“Having been briefed a number of times by senior Administration officials representing the State Department, Pentagon, White House, and intelligence community, and having personally reviewed classified and unclassified intelligence, I am convinced that the Assad regime is responsible for the August 21st chemical weapons attack that killed nearly 1,500 Syrians. The evidence is solid and the intelligence is clear that the Assad regime perpetrated this heinous war crime. It was not the first time Assad has used chemical weapons, nor, without our action, do I think it will it be the last.
“The use of these weapons is unconscionable and a clear violation of a long-standing global ‘red line.’ It stands in sharp contrast with America's laws and international treaty commitments. The challenge we faced on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to craft an authorization for the use of military force that responds to Americans’ legitimate concerns over being drawn into a war in Syria, while allowing the administration to act to deter and punish the Assad regime, degrading its chemical weapons arsenal with hopes of eventually reaching a negotiated resolution to the conflict. The authorization of the use of military force considered by the Committee today achieved these objectives.
“I am pleased President Obama sought authorization from Congress and that the Foreign Relations Committee thoroughly, cautiously, and deliberately debated the issue, making the final authorization resolution narrower than the initial draft. An amendment I introduced with Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire added explicit requirements that the administration present a strategy to Congress regarding efforts to secure biological and chemical weapons, and to coordinate with our regional partners, including Israel, Jordan and Turkey. This amendment also required a more explicit strategy for addressing the humanitarian needs of the 2 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, and the 4.5 million internally displaced Syrians.
“Additional amendments that I introduced with Senator McCain of Arizona put the authorization in a broader policy context, clarifying that, unlike the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, our long-term goal remains a negotiated resolution to the Syrian conflict. From the beginning of this process, I have consistently said that any military action would have to be part of a broader strategy for a negotiated resolution. These amendments reinforced that point and strengthened the strategy moving forward, without expanding the use of military force.
“I continue to believe it is possible for the United States to take action that responds to and deters future chemical weapons attacks, and is part of a strategy that will lead to a more stable and secure Syria.”