Friday, July 6, 2012

An Open Letter to Congress to Intervene in Syria

Following is a letter that I had sent to every United States Senator last week, advocating military intervention in Syria. This week, I had it sent to members of President Obama's administration. I ask every reader who agrees with my message to send this letter to your elected representatives. The time is now for our nation to assume its position of leadership and undertake to end the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.

June 29, 2012
Honorable Senator
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Senator:

Over the past sixteen months, the people of Syria have risen up against a regime that for over four decades has denied its people basic rights and freedoms. In response to demonstrations and protests, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has reacted with overwhelming force to crush an opposition movement, giving way to nearly sixteen thousand victims to date.

According to the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, Syrian state agents have violated various provisions of international humanitarian law, failed to distinguish between the civilian population and combatants, and failed to exercise proportionality with respect to civilian losses. International agencies such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent were, for too long, denied access to attend to the victims of the violence. Doctors without Borders states that the Syrian government continues to deny basic medical care to injured civilians.

The international community has given the Assad regime time, but in this time, Assad has only hardened his attitude. Reports have emerged from Reuters and the AFP of systematic acts of violence against civilians at the hands of the Assad regime. The United Nations-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has reported that the government of Syria is responsible for “crimes against humanity of murder, torture, rape or other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances of persons and other inhumane acts of a similar character.”

It has now become evident that diplomacy and negotiation have failed. Given Assad’s unwillingness to relinquish power, regime change through a military intervention is the only way forward. The United States cannot wait for Russia’s consent to collective security action under the United Nations Charter. Given Russia’s objection to the use of force, the international community, led by the United States, must act on its moral responsibility to protect Syrians.

This moral responsibility is rooted in international law. Under the responsibility to protect doctrine, the international community has a duty to intervene when a people suffers from egregious acts of violence at the hands of their State. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights further requires States to ensure the protection of the right to life, prohibitions on torture, and freedom of thought and expression, all of which have been violated by the Syrian regime. Whether through a community of like-minded States or through the United Nations, the United States must assume its position of leadership in defending these rights.

That the United States has passively deferred to Russia on Syria is concerning on several fronts. First, Russia’s objections to an intervention neglect a responsibility to defend international security and peace, one that Russia, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has a special duty to uphold. Second, Russia’s insistence on non-intervention is hypocritical in light of Russia’s Syria-bound shipments of attack helicopters, anti-aircraft weapons, and warships. With regiments of Russian marines and heavy weaponry being carried on such ships and Russia’s economic interest in supplying arms to Syria, the pretext of protecting Russian citizens in Syria is hardly convincing. Because Russia’s interest in armaments sales to the Syrian regime conflicts with its interest in resolving the Syrian conflict, Russian leadership on Syria lacks credibility.

In 1999, the world stood at the crossroads of a similar humanitarian intervention. Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council locked horns on the crisis in Kosovo. Despite a Russian veto, NATO undertook military action, and most observers now agree that NATO’s actions were legitimate and justified under international law.

When the events of the Syrian liberation are recounted in history, the countries that stood in silence with Russia will be judged with blood on their hands. The nations that acted to defend the Syrian people will be vindicated. Will America sit in silence as Russia protects Assad’s slaughter of the Syrian people, or will it hasten the fall of the Assad regime?

The time is now for military action to accelerate regime change. The United States, together with a coalition of allies including Great Britain, France, and Turkey, must make a clear ultimatum to Assad: he may step down now in exchange for immunity, or otherwise face consequences in the form of military action, including air strikes to neutralize Syrian intelligence and strategic bases; the establishment of a no-fly zone; safe havens in Syria and at the Turkish border; material support to the opposition in the form of armaments and other military equipment; and a media war against the Syrian regime with an aim to induce mass defections.

Given concerns prevailing as to the landscape of post-Assad Syria, Washington can condition its military support to the opposition on commitments by the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council to guarantee the rights of minorities and establish a power-sharing model under the new Constitution, where Sunni Muslims as well as Alawi and Christian minorities share power and guarantee the respect for the rule of law.

With the support of a coalition of liked-minded nations, American action in Syria need not be unilateral. Yet the international community will not act until the United States assumes its position of world leadership.


John M. B. Balouziyeh, Esq.

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