FCNL to Congress: U.S. Military Intervention Would Widen Syrian War

Aug 26, 2013

Click here for original letter to House
Click here for original letter to Senate

August 26, 2013

Dear Representative:

We join the international community in voicing grave concerns over the news that chemical weapons were reportedly used by the government of Syria, allegedly resulting in hundreds of deaths. At this critical moment in Syria’s civil war, we urge you to take the following steps to help end the bloodshed in Syria:

1. Reject U.S. military intervention, which would increase violence and risk of more chemical weapons attacks: U.S. military strikes against Syria would escalate the bloodshed and could inadvertently disburse chemical weapons. The locations of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons are unknown and U.S. bombardment of Syrian military facilities could release those chemicals on civilian populations. Furthermore, if backed into a corner by military intervention, the Assad regime might be more likely to use chemical weapons on a broader scale. The way forward, as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey mentioned this week, is not a military one.

2. Cosponsor H.R. 2494, the bipartisan Gibson-Welch legislation to prohibit military aid to Syria: Sending weapons to Syria’s armed opposition only adds more fuel to a fire already engulfing the Middle East. Regardless of the vetting procedures in place, the sheer factionalized nature of the opposition guarantees that the arms will end up in the hands of militias guilty of gross human rights abuses. The same militant fighters who have committed gross atrocities are among the best-positioned of the rebel groups to seize the weapons that the United States sends to Syria. Just as past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades, so too will furnishing arms to the Syrian opposition backfire.

3. Support continued UN investigations: The U.S. should leverage the full weight of its diplomatic influence and resources to press on actors who have potential political leverage with the Syrian regime to allow unfettered access to the United Nations inspectors investigating alleged chemical weapons attacks.

4. Urge President Obama to convene an emergency summit: U.S. work with the Russian Foreign Ministry on a Geneva 2 peace process has been laudable, but has not included all relevant stakeholders. A new summit should include representatives of Russia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, UK and France to negotiate a way forward to end the bloodshed, allow unrestricted humanitarian access and find a negotiated settlement to the conflict. Hezbollah, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other non-state actors with potential influence on the Assad regime must also be engaged. Here, world leaders should:

a. Commit to new efforts to restrict the flow of weapons to all parties of the conflict. Cutting off military supplies—bullets, missiles and repair parts—could significantly slow the killing. A gun without a bullet is little more than a club.
b. Commit to regional strategies to better incentivize and hold accountable the armed actors’ compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.
c. Build political will for cooperation around non-military intervention options in both Syria and Egypt in the context of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly and Responsibility to Protect (R2P) discussions.

5. Press the United Nations Security Council to ask the ICC to investigate war crimes in Syria: Arresting war criminals is cheaper than any form of intervention, and if President Assad or other actors are indicted by the ICC then they can be arrested if they travel elsewhere, decreasing pressure for intervention and broadening diplomatic options. Moreover, an ICC referral will allow multiple countries to share intelligence information that is currently being bottlenecked and classified.

6. Increase and better allocate humanitarian funds to address refugee flows: Traditional humanitarian response mechanisms are falling short in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, particularly in dealing with the stress of the volume of refugees on host communities. The USG must address the protracted nature of the Syrian crisis by increasing and encouraging other states to increase humanitarian funds, and by allocating said funds to programs that bridge immediate humanitarian needs with longer-term development strategies, implemented in a conflict-sensitive manner and following humanitarian principles. The United Nation’s Syria Regional Refugee Response plan, which calls for US$3 billion dollars to address the acute needs of refugees until December of this year, is currently only 38 percent funded.

We must not repeat the mistakes of Iraq by acting in haste. Allowing impunity for the use of chemical weapons against civilians would set an abominable precedent. We also strongly support the work within the United Nations Security Council to build international consensus condemning the alleged use of chemical weapons.

The solution to the Syrian crises will not be found in escalated violence, but rather in means and mechanisms that de-escalate the violence and create a platform for a negotiated settlement. Working with all stakeholders, to apply new non-military mechanisms to weaken the engaged parties’ capacities and motivations to commit atrocities against civilians is the only way to make that happen. Just as the Taif Agreement of 1989 ushered in an end to the Lebanese civil war by securing buy-in from internal factions and external actors, a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis must be similarly inclusive.

As a Quaker organization, we do not believe violence is the solution. Further violence will not achieve the goals that you have articulated in Syria, and we do not see any scenarios where U.S. military intervention will help.

We appreciate your focus on these matters.

Sincerely, Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

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