U.S. and U.K. Leadership Needed on Syria

March 14, 2012

From Jamie Fly, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society
 
Both the American and British governments have publicly demanded that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad step down.  Yet as President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron meet today in Washington, D.C., the Assad regime—a government that supports international terrorism and is Iran’s closest ally in the Arab world—remains undeterred as it wages a war on the Syrian people so indiscriminate and bloody that the United Nations has now accused it of crimes against humanity.

Empty threats against Assad have had little impact on the regime’s actions.  According to conservative estimates, the dictator’s forces has murdered well over 8,000 civilians and indiscriminately injured tens of thousands since March 2011 and imprisoning thousands more.  Indeed, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently told the U.N. General Assembly, “We continue to receive grisly reports of summary executions, arbitrary detentions, and torture” by the Assad regime in Syria.

Unless President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron lead an international coalition to intervene on behalf of the Syrian opposition, the Assad regime will only escalate its relentless slaughter of civilians to even more horrific heights.  In particular, the United States and the United Kingdom should work with like-minded nations to—

  • Ensure that opposition groups in Syria improve their organization and communication, and possess the means to defend themselves
  • Establish and defend safe zones within Syria for the protection of beleaguered civilians and refugees from the Assad regime’s assaults, and
  • Launch targeted air strikes against elements of the Syrian military that threaten Syrian cities.

Yesterday, the two leaders rightly celebrated the special relationship between our two countries in an oped in The Washington Post.  They quoted Winston Churchill’s wartime statement that “there is hardly anything we could not do” as Britons and Americans working together.  That is certainly true, but more importantly, the success of this remarkable partnership has been based on our values and the morality of our cause.  Churchill once wrote that we shared a “common duty to the human race.”

Therein lies our obligation to act in the face of brutal repression, especially when action also is consonant with our strategic interests, as is the case in Syria.  We urge the President and the Prime Minister to not turn their backs on our common duty and to take decisive actions to bring an end to the mass murder of Syrian civilians—and to the Assad regime itself.

The people of Syria are seeking to join the community of free nations that our forefathers fought and died side by side to defend.  They need our assistance.  To fail to act does not do justice to the legacy of our two great nations.

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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