5 Reasons to Oppose Military Intervention in Syria

Sep 3, 2013

The international community must act on Syria, but unilateral, U.S. military strikes are not the answer.


1) The international community is united in condemning chemical weapons use in Syria.

U.S. strikes would erode this unity. Governments around the world—including Iran and Russia—have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria. A unilateral U.S. attack would create divisions in the international community and draw attention away from the horror of chemical weapons and how to prevent their future use in Syria.

2) The international community has effective political tools to address the use of chemical weapons.

The U.S. should convene a meeting of all the parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention so that the 189 countries that are signatories are required to respond to this violation and the global norm against use of chemical weapons is maintained. The U.S. should also request that the United Nations ask the International Criminal Court to investigate all parties that may be using chemical weapons or committing crimes against humanity in Syria.

3) No military solution exists to the crisis in Syria.

As the Obama administration and Pentagon officials have long pointed out, Syria’s bloody civil war can only be solved by political means, not by the application of military force. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey made this point in a letter sent to Rep. Eliot Engel (NY) in late August. U.S. military action risks killing more people and has a low probability of effectively deterring the future use of chemical weapons.

4) The U.S. needs to pursue a political solution that involves internal and external stakeholders—including the Arab League, Russia, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.

A settlement needs to be negotiated between all internal parties to the conflict and include consultation with the external backers that have fueled this conflict. The U.S. can help save Syrian lives by engaging with Assad’s allies —including Iran and Russia—who can potentially influence Assad’s actions.

Iran is particularly important. Just before his inauguration this summer, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Iran not to shy away from criticizing the brutality of the Assad regime. But the U.S. has yet to engage Iran on Syria. A U.S. attack would undermine prospects for successful U.S.-Iran diplomacy to help stabilize Syria.

5) A U.S. attack on Syria could start a region-wide war.

The Syrian regime could retaliate to a U.S. attack by launching attacks on Israel or U.S. military assets in the Middle East. This could lead the U.S. to escalate in response and commit itself to waging an open-ended, multi-billion dollar war.

A U.S. attack would likely play into the hands of the Syrian regime, triggering an outpouring of nationalist support for Assad among Syrians who perceive the regime as their only protection from foreign military intervention. Strikes could also strengthen al Qaeda’s presence in the region by emboldening opposition groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which have avowed affiliations with al Qaeda.

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