Senators to Obama: Increase Assistance to Syrians Now
Fresh off a trip to the Middle East, two bipartisan Senate women are urging President Obama to step up humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people as President Bashar al-Assad continues his assault.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) met with Syrian opposition leaders during a congressional delegation mission to Egypt and Jordan last week.
"We are convinced there are few issues as pressing as the escalating crisis in Syria. We must do more to deliver on promises to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people," Ayotte and Gillibrand wrote to Obama yesterday.
"It is essential for the United States to dramatically increase its actual and demonstrated humanitarian support for the National Coalition for Syrian and Revolutionary Forces, or the Syrian Opposition Council," they added. "This support would increase the relevance of the Syrian Opposition Council in the eyes of the Syrian people—strengthening its efforts to create a unified Syrian opposition and lessening the humanitarian tragedy in Syria. At this critical juncture in history, when the Assad regime has killed over 60,000 Syrians, we are unified in our belief that the U.S. must do more to save innocent lives and bolster the strength of the opposition."
Ayotte and Gillibrand were joined by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on the letter.
"Based on our bipartisan congressional delegation meeting with Council leaders in Cairo, as well as meetings with regional leaders and Syrian refugees, we believe more firmly that the U.S. must redouble its support for the Syrian Opposition Council, so that the Council can visibly play a meaningful role in delivery of U.S. humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. We appreciate your administration's dedication of resources over the past few months to develop the Council's capacity to deliver assistance to the Syrian people, consistent with U.S. interests. Having built an assistance component of the Council, we strongly believe that it is time to empower the Council to deliver humanitarian aid with sufficient vetting to ensure aid reaches the people of Syria," they wrote.
"We ask that you review the State Department’s current assistance to the Syrian Opposition Council. The review should examine ways to quickly improve both the Council’s capacity to receive and deliver U.S. humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and its ability to play a visible role in advising U.S. humanitarian assistance through other channels. We cannot allow bureaucratic inertia to stand in the way of providing needed aid to the Syrian people and saving lives."