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Senate Push to Help Syria Brings Rubio, Boxer Together

A new bipartisan resolution calls on the president to give material and technical assistance to the Syrian opposition.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

February 15, 2012 - 1:07 pm
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The Syrian uprising is a year old and bloodier than ever as tyrant Bashar al-Assad digs in even further and refuses to give in to the fate of fellow dictators in the Arab Spring.

With a death toll conservatively estimated at more than 6,000 Syrian civilians and defectors — including brave members of the Syrian armed forces who refused to open fire on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators — the global community has been seesawing between cries to do something to stop to the bloodshed and being stymied over how to stop the massacres.

Not surprisingly, that help won’t come from the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China proved yet again that those who oppress basic human rights and the rule of law happily jump into bed together and stay tight under the covers.

And as horrible tales of Syrian suffering continue to reach the world via social media and the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is on a trip to Haiti.

Though their effectiveness may prove little more than drawing attention to the plight of those in Homs, Hama, Damascus, and beyond, members of Congress are trying to fill the intervention void.

And the effort to help Syrians is bringing together some unusual legislative pairings — like Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Rubio and Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) introduced a resolution last Friday that calls on Assad to step down from power, “strongly condemns” Russia and Iran for giving the regime military aid, and encourages President Obama to keep slapping sanctions on human-rights violators in Syria.

It also “urges the President to support an effective transition to democracy in Syria by identifying and providing substantial material and technical support, upon request, to Syrian organizations” and urges the State Department to devise a strategy to “encourage defections” from the Syrian military.

“The Syrian people can’t expect Assad to heed calls for his departure, nor can they rely on the United Nations to act,” Rubio, also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. “For the sake of innocent lives in Syria and the security of the entire region, the United States must keep up the pressure on the regime and begin planning for a post-Assad Syria. We need to hasten Assad’s departure from power and also lay the groundwork for the difficult path towards a true inclusive democracy.”

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