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Congresswoman leads-one person congressional delegation to Syrian Embassy

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked all 435 members of Congress to join her at a meeting at the Syrian Embassy in Washington Tuesday, but in the end, she was the only one who attended. “I invite you to join me, as Members of Congress, at the Syrian Embassy on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, to ...

By , a former staff writer at Foreign Policy.
630451_120229_sheila1.jpg
630451_120229_sheila1.jpg

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked all 435 members of Congress to join her at a meeting at the Syrian Embassy in Washington Tuesday, but in the end, she was the only one who attended.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked all 435 members of Congress to join her at a meeting at the Syrian Embassy in Washington Tuesday, but in the end, she was the only one who attended.

“I invite you to join me, as Members of Congress, at the Syrian Embassy on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, to ask for an immediate cease-fire, a resumption of international mediation, and a peaceful end to this conflict,” Jackson Lee wrote to all lawmakers Feb. 27. “We will show our support for the Syrian people and our rejection of the senseless killing of unarmed innocent civilians. This will be a strong diplomatic and symbolic gesture from the U.S. Congress to Syria.”

“We will meet with the Syrian chargé d’affaires Zouheir Jabbour at 10:30 a.m. Together, we will express our disapproval of actions taken by President Bashar al Asad’s troops against the people of Syria,” read the letter, which identified Jackson Lee as the co-chair of Congressional Children’s Caucus.

Jackson Lee attended the meeting, but no other lawmakers joined her, her spokesperson told The Cable.

Regardless, Jackson Lee considered the meeting a success because she was able to deliver a letter to Jabbour, this time as a “senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee,” that questioned “whether the regime of President Bashar al Assad, whose actions unfortunately have veered into a realm ranging from undesirable to brutal, can handle a growing problem.”

She made seven specific demands of Assad in the letter, namely that he: cease fire and cease the violence of the Syrian government, establish a safe camp for all woman and children, allow immediate access for the Syrian Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross, allow immediate access for Poland to remove Western journalists stuck in Homs as well as the bodies of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, allow the removal of all other wounded, make immediate provisions for the safe arrival of medical care and food, and “for President Assad to step down as President IMMEDIATEDLY.” (Emphasis in original.)

Jackson Lee also handed Jabbour an identical letter to give to Assad himself, and another copy to give to Syria’s Ambassador to Washington Imad Moustapha. That copy might be tough to deliver because Moustapha suddenly moved to Beijing amid an FBI investigation into the embassy’s alleged spying on Syrian Americans for the purpose of harassing them and their families.

So why didn’t any other members of Congress join Lee? Despite the tough tone of her letter, some offices thought that Lee was simply grandstanding and that meeting with the Syrian embassy officials sent the wrong message at the wrong time.

“Essentially she’s allowing herself to be used as a propaganda tool by the Assad regime,” one senior congressional aide told The Cable. “It’s hard to see how show your support for the people of Syria by legitimizing a regime that continues to brutalize them.”

Josh Rogin is a former staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshrogin

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