Senators file resolution to arm Syria opposition
WASHINGTON — Senior US lawmakers filed a resolution Wednesday in the Senate condemning deadly violence ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and urging the arming of the country’s opposition.
Republican Senator John McCain presented the text, co-sponsored by four other senators including Lindsey Graham and independent Joe Lieberman, “condemning the mass atrocities committed by the government of Syria and supporting the right of the people of Syria to be safe and to defend themselves.”
The non-binding resolution “supports calls by Arab leaders to provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar al-Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support.”
The senators urged President Barack Obama to implement such efforts, and also called on his administration to take “all necessary precautions” to ensure such support for the opposition does not fall into the hands of individuals aligned with Al-Qaeda or other terror groups.
Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Sunday on the need to send “non-lethal” aid to Syrian rebels, including communications equipment, but the White House has said further militarization of the conflict was not the way forward.
McCain is one of the US lawmakers most openly supportive of the Syrian opposition, and at the resolution’s unveiling he demanded: “How many have to die before the United States will take a leadership role in trying to end the mass slaughter that’s taking place in Syria?”
The bloodshed has left more than 9,000 people dead in the year-long uprising against the Assad regime, according to the United Nations.
“It’s not a fair fight,” McCain said.
Regime forces are using “tanks and artillery against AK-47s,” and the weapons for Assad’s forces “are being supplied and resupplied by Russia and Iran,” he added, criticizing Moscow and Tehran for providing heavy weaponry.
“Meanwhile the United States of America does nothing.”
McCain is also strongly in favor of air strikes against Syrian forces, but that proposal was not in the resolution.
“We specifically did not include a call for the use of US or allied air power here because that might dissuade a lot of our colleagues” from voting for the resolution, Lieberman told reporters.
Lieberman expressed confidence that Democrats would support the text.