There is no question that the ongoing conflict in Syria has become a major humanitarian crisis and a cause of significant regional instability. This conflict, which started more than four years ago when protests against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned violent, has gone from bad to worse. In fact, it is now estimated that more than 220,000 Syrians have died and more than 4.5 million have been displaced and now live in refugee camps in countries like Jordan and Turkey. In addition, the United Nations released a report that confirmed that sarin nerve gas was used on August 21, 2013 and caused numerous civilian casualties.
So far, the Obama Administration has taken a measured approach that has focused primarily on diplomacy and sanctions, and following the identification of the use of chemical weapons, providing military and economic support – in a cautious way – to certain Syrian rebel groups that had been vetted. This is all the more important given the knowledge that radical elements associated with known terrorist groups are fighting among the Syrian opposition forces. It is critical that if our nation engages the opposition at all, we conduct the appropriate due diligence to ensure that we only tip the scale toward rebels we know and can trust. We need to be very careful about not being further drawn into a conflict that we have limited ability to resolve. I share your concern with the provision of arms and lethal aid to the Syrian opposition forces.
Finally, we need to acknowledge that this is an international issue that requires an international response. With that in mind, America should continue to work with our NATO allies such as Turkey as well with groups like the Arab League to bring both sides to the negotiating table in hopes of bringing an end to the bloodshed, stabilizing the chemical weapons, and fostering peace in the region. As the situation in Syria continues to evolve, I appreciate you sharing your views on this important issue. I welcome your continued thoughts and suggestions.