2013-09-12 / News

Jamestown delegates weigh in on Syria

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Jamestown resident and senior member of the Armed Services Committee, met with President Barack Obama and fellow senators Tuesday on the latest developments regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria.

During the meeting, Obama previewed his address to the nation. He asked for more time to work out a potential diplomatic solution, effectively delaying a vote in the U.S. Senate on a resolution to authorize military force against the Assad regime.

After the meeting, Reed issued the following statement:

“The president previewed his speech this evening, indicating that the critical issue is the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

“The Russians have proposed, in response to comments made by Secretary Kerry, that they would be interested in exploring an option by which the Assad regime would give up its chemical weapons. That would be a huge breakthrough because not only would it stop them from using these weapons, it would remove them. In fact, it would remove a continuous source of instability and danger in that region. And so this proposal has to be seriously looked at.

“It has to be approached with some skepticism because the Russians have been protecting the Assad regime for years now. We have to call them out and hopefully they will come forward in terms of responsible world leadership and help us eliminate this chemical weapons threat in Syria.

“In terms of resolutions that are pending before the U.S. Senate, they have to be carefully thought through. Not just the initial implications, but the sequential steps.

“The same type of thought I tried to bring to bear as I considered the proposals in 2002 to authorize the president to use force in Iraq. I opposed those proposals, thinking of not just of immediate consequences but what would follow. Here, it is the same calculation that has to go forward. What is in the national interests of the United States? Can we do this with an international coalition? Do we have a very limited objective that would preclude us from entering into ground combat in Syria? Which would be very, very costly and not, I think, in the interests of the United States.

“These considerations are still foremost in my mind as I look at current resolutions and I look at variations of the resolution. I want to give it the care and thoughtful consideration it deserves and the people of Rhode Island deserve.

“Any type of unilateral action I don’t think would be effective. We have to build the broadest coalition of international actors.

“Now that the Russian proposal is on the table it gives us an opportunity to very quickly explore the sincerity and the seriousness of the Russians and others. That has to be done, I think, immediately.

“We want to pursue meaningful discussions about this proposal. But if this is simply a way to delay then we have to come back to the basic issue before the Senate and that is the resolutions and the authorizations that have been proposed.

“But I hope that the Russians are serious, I hope they are sincere. Not only would this allow us to move forward on an international basis, but it would also achieve a more significant end: not simply deterring the use of chemical weapons, but actually physically removing those weapons from the Syrian government. That would be a tremendous step forward.”

Congressman David Cicilline, a member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also represents Jamestown in Washington, D.C. Following Obama’s address to the nation Tuesday night, he issued a statement as well.

“President Obama clearly explained the evidence of the Assad regime’s culpability for the chemical weapons attack in Syria. The president offered a powerful argument outlining the international community’s moral responsibility to prevent the use of chemical weapons and the dangers that would result from allowing this well-established ban to be eroded.

“I applaud the president’s prudent decision to postpone his request for congressional authorization for the use of military force in order to pursue a diplomatic alternative to this crisis that would guarantee that the Assad regime could never again use these horrific chemical weapons. The president’s proposal provides America with the opportunity to engage the entire international community in the important work of preventing the use of chemical weapons and to pursue this objective in a way that honors our values.”

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