As President Obama prepares to give a speech next week (make no mistake, this administration is in full-blown campaign mode) to outline a “new strategy” in the Middle East, senators in both parties are urging him to take a tougher stance against the murderous Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
Sens. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.), John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) held a press conference Wednesday to announce the introduction of a strongly-worded Senate resolution condemning the Syrian government’s action and urging the president to expand existing sanctions against the regime, as well as “to speak out directly and personally” in support of the Syrian people. “A statement by the president would mean everything to the people of Syria and would also send a very threatening message to Assad,” Lieberman said.
The goal of the resolution, Lieberman said, was to send a “strong, clear and urgent message to Bashar al-Assad” and the rest of the world that the Assad regime has lost its legitimacy to rule and therefore should no longer be tolerated as such. Lieberman sought to permanently put to rest the belief previously held by some, namely Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that Assad could be trusted, as a “reformer,” not to resort to violence. “He is not a reformer. In my opinion, Assad is a thug and a murderer,” Lieberman said.
He was also dismissive of those who believe the Assad regime, however horrible, is still better than what might replace it. “There simply cannot be a successor to Bashar al-Assad that is anywhere near as bad as he has been,” he said. “It is strategic and moral nonsense to say that we should hold back from supporting the Syrian people against Assad because we’re worried about what will follow, when he is massacring his own people day after day.”
Rubio, who was widely praised for his leadership in drafting the resolution, gave a passionate (and very presidential) statement on the universal nature of freedom and human rights as endowed by our Creator, calling on President Obama to “make the cause of the Syrian people America’s cause as well.”
“Our interest in Syria is simple,” he said. “We hope her people will have the same freedoms we do, so that together we can build a better world for our children and our children’s children.”
As to how the United States should respond if Assad does not change course soon, the senators said military action was not appropriate — at least for the time being — but seemed to leave the option on the table. “It’s beginning to look like what motivated us to move into Libya,” Lieberman said. “The world has to ask itself will it stand by and allow a government to not just suppress the rights of its people but to murder them in large numbers?”
“There’s not a military answer to that right now,” he added. “But I would not want Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to feel comfortable that if he continues this rampage against his own people that it’s impossible that the world will rise up and try to defend his people militarily.”