Menendez Identifies Vital U.S. Interests at Stake in Syria, Calls for Providing Lethal Arms to Vetted Syrian Opposition
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Menendez Speaks on Senate Floor about National Security Issues in Syria and in Support of his Legislation, the Syria Stabilization Act of 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outlined the vital U.S. interests at stake in Syria while speaking on the Senate Floor today in support of tipping the balance in the Syrian civil war in favor of vetted armed rebel groups seeking to overthrow the Assad regime.
Menendez described the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Syria, the need to secure chemical weapons stockpiles, the public reports detailing the likely use by the Assad regime of chemical weapon attacks against the Syrian people, the danger of a collapsed Syrian state turning into a safe haven for terrorists including Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, the growing Iranian presence in Syria, and the refugee crisis destabilizing the region including neighboring Jordan, a close U.S. ally.
“We must arm the vetted opposition in Syria to change the tipping point in this civil war and tend to the greatest humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in our world,” Menendez said. “There will be no greater strategic setback to Iran than to have the Assad regime collapse, and cause a disruption to the terror pipeline between Tehran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
The Menendez legislation which was introduced on Monday is comprised of five sections.
- Authority to provide arms, military training and non-lethal supplies to the Syrian armed opposition: Groups that have gone through a thorough vetting process which meet certain criteria on human-rights, terrorism, and non-proliferation would be eligible. The distribution of MANPADS is explicitly forbidden.
- Creation of a $250 million Transition Fund: To assist the civilian opposition in providing basic services over parts of the country and support early transition institution building and maintenance of existing institutions, such as preserving security institutions, promoting government formation, supporting transition justice, and reconciliation efforts.
- Sanctions on arms and oil sales to Assad: Targeting any person that the President determines has knowingly participated in or facilitated a transaction related to the sale or transfer of military equipment, arms, petroleum, or petroleum products to the Assad regime.
- Notwithstanding authority for humanitarian assistance: To ensure the administration is not hampered in its efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.
- Amendment to the Syria Accountability Act: To allow for sanctions removal once a transitional government is in place and certain terrorism and WMD criteria have been met.