Time to Act in Syria

Last week, I joined a bipartisan group of senators to ask the President whether the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. The administration's response suggests mounting evidence of chemical weapons underscores the imperative that the United States stand with the people of Syria during this critical period.

The fall of Assad is not only good for Syria, but will deal a significant blow to Iran and Hezbollah. Degrading the destructive power of Iran and Hezbollah is in the national security interests of the United States -- Bashar al -Assad is a key link between them.

In March, Senator Rubio and I offered legislation that could offer a path forward. Since that time, several senators have cosponsored the measure including Senators Kirk, Coons, Klobuchar, Levin, Cardin, Boxer and Shaheen. This legislation would provide support to the armed and political opposition, increase humanitarian aid to Syrians inside the country and to refugees in neighboring states. This bill also lays the groundwork to address the immense humanitarian and political challenges in the post-Assad era.

A political transition to a government that reflects the will of the Syrian people is in the core interests of the United States in the region. I have made the case consistently that the U.S. should lead efforts to support the moderate Syrian armed and political opposition. I have also said that the U.S. should consider measures that would hamper the ability of the Syrian Air Force to conduct aerial attacks on civilians, including cruise missile strikes on Syrian Air Force planes as they sit on the tarmac [Foreign Policy 2/27/13]. In addition, the U.S., working with Turkey and NATO, should use Patriot missile batteries to provide cover for Syrians living in the northern part of the country who are subjected to SCUD missile attacks.

Any U.S. action should not result in U.S. boots on the ground.

It is time to act in the interests of our security in the region. Decisive action by the U.S. and our allies could help to tip the balance so that Syria can begin a transition process. Absent constructive engagement by the U.S., I am very concerned that the killing in Syria will continue and extremists will play an increasingly influential role in determining that country's future, resulting in very negative implications for the region.