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Chairman Menendez Opening Remarks at Hearing on Syria After Geneva

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing on “Syria After Geneva: Next Steps for U.S. Policy.”

“We are here today with a distinguished panel of experts to hear their views and to express our concerns – and what Congress can do – about Syria after Geneva.

“At the moment, there is clearly a stalemate at the political level. The Geneva 2 process failed to achieve any forward momentum and fell far short of the goal to agree on a transitional governing body. The Syrian Opposition Delegation went to Geneva ready to work responsibly on behalf of the Syrian people, and Assad’s delegation demonstrated their contempt for international efforts to mediate an end to the violence and preserve what’s left of Syria.

“If there was any doubt about the true character of this regime, it was brought into sharp focus when Assad went after family members of the opposition following Geneva. Meanwhile, the barrel bombs continued to drop, the starvation and torture campaign went on unabated even while the delegations were sitting at the negotiating table!

“Assad has shown that he is willing to fight to the last Syrian. Meanwhile, the international community seems paralyzed on what to do next. This hearing is about exactly that: What’s next in Syria? I hope to explore with our panelists new thinking, new options, and hear some creative new ideas that answer “what’s next?” and that can help determine what additional role Congress can play.

“The record of this Committee for empowering the moderate Syrian opposition – and ensuring that a credible military threat is on the table – has been clear for some time.

“The question before us last week was how to break the stalemate on the ground?  With recent regime advances, the question may now be how to reverse their momentum and shore up opposition forces?

“Our partners in the Syrian Military Council are now fighting a two front war – one against Al-Qaeda affiliates, and extremists who would impose Sharia law. The other against Assad and his security forces that remain loyal to him – Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militias trained in Iran with Iranian equipment and funding, military equipment and international protection supplied by Russia, and direct guidance, training, and fighters provided by Iran.

“In conclusion, I would note that on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reported to UN Security Council on Resolution 2139 that named areas in Syria where the siege must be lifted. Predictably, Assad did not meet the demands on the unanimous UN Security Council resolution.

“Hospitals, schools, and other civilian areas are still militarized. Areas are blocked from humanitarian aid, and the barrel bombs are still falling! We now need to insist on accountability, and make it clear that there are consequences for ignoring the UN Security Council.

“Ultimately, the longer the war continues the fewer options we will have to end the horrific level of violence and the humanitarian nightmare. The loss of an entire generation of Syrian children, the collapse of a society that has given tremendous gifts to the world – this is not a legacy that anyone wants to live with.

“Clearly, the stakes are high and growing higher every day. We need concerted, decisive U.S. leadership. That fact is, we needed it two years ago, we needed it yesterday, and we need it today.”

Panel One

“We have two panels today.

“On our first panel we are pleased to welcome Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Ann Patterson and Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Tom Countryman.

“Welcome to you both, and thank you for taking the time to be here.

“I would remind you that your full statements will be included in the record and I ask that you try to summarize them in 5 minutes to allow us to have a full discussion of the issues.”

Panel Two

“On our second panel we have D. David Kilcullen, Chairman and Founder of Caerus Associates, Dr. Vali Nasr, Dean of Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, and Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Welcome to all of you, and thank you for taking the time to be here.

“I would remind you that your full statements will be included in the record and I ask that you try to summarize them in 5 minutes to allow us to have a full discussion of the issues.”