It’s time for President Obama to back up his rhetoric with firm action. The first step: Recall the U.S. ambassador from Damascus.
- By Marco Rubio <p> U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. </p>
In recent days, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used its army to murder hundreds of innocent civilians as part of a vicious campaign of violence against unarmed Syrian demonstrators. What we are witnessing in Syria is another tragic outrage in the Middle East that requires immediate condemnation backed by specific measures from the United States and the international community. U.S. President Barack Obama needs to make clear whose side America is on, back up our rhetoric with action, and clearly articulate why Syria matters to the United States.
Clearly, we should be on the side of the Syrian people longing for freedom and challenging the regime’s corrupt and repressive rule. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s hesitancy to weigh in has been mistaken for indecision at best and indifference at worst. The president needs to speak directly to the Syrian people to communicate American support for their legitimate demands, condemn Assad’s murderous campaign against innocent civilians, and sternly warn Assad and his cohorts that they cannot continue grossly violating human rights, supporting terrorism, and sowing instability among Syria’s neighbors.
But his words must be backed by clear, firm actions. As ill-advised as it was to restore diplomatic relations with Syria by sending an American ambassador to Damascus last year, we should now sever ties and recall the ambassador at once. While Syria is already under heavy U.S. sanctions as a designated state sponsor of terror, we should expand sanctions to include persons identified as authorizing, planning, or participating in deplorable human rights violations against unarmed civilians. Our partners in Europe, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf share many of our interests in Syria and play a large role in that country, and the president must put the full diplomatic weight of the United States behind an effort to convince them to adopt meaningful economic and diplomatic sanctions targeting Assad and his enablers in the regime.
America has an obligation to weigh in strongly about the situation in Syria. For years, its regime has aided the terrorist operations of Hezbollah and Hamas, supported Iran’s destabilizing policies, and helped terrorists kill Americans in Iraq. The regime has not only destabilized the region but also directly acted against the national security interests of the United States. We simply cannot sit silently as innocent people peacefully challenge a regime committed to undermining the United States and its allies.
This administration must stop sitting on the sidelines as innocent Syrian people are mowed down by the regime’s tanks. At an early point in the Libyan struggle, when a clear U.S. policy could have achieved significant successes at lower costs, the president failed to act. Now in Syria, we are faced with a challenge requiring the United States to find its voice in defense of the Syrian people and to implement meaningful actions in the immediate term. The administration must stop dithering as innocent Syrians die at the hands of a merciless regime.