Senator King and Syria

Thu, Oct 31, 2013


I received a (tardy) response from Senator King in response to my having called his office long ago opposing the proposed attack on Syria. I found his response interesting, so I’m forwarding it. FWIW, I’m including my response to him, which bounced because of the nonexistence of the address on his From-line (so it has been sent via his web interface). Dick Senator Angus King wrote, On 10/31/13 2:13 PM: > > Dear Richard, > > I have been in touch with thousands of people in Maine regarding the > Syrian situation. Clearly, public opinion in our state is against > getting involved in a war in Syria, and I agree with that sentiment. I > am also convinced, however, that America’s threat of military force led > directly to negotiations that resulted in Syria’s agreement to surrender > its chemical arsenal. > > The Assad regime’s barbarous use of chemical weapons against its own > citizens – including hundreds of women and children – is an affront to > the entire world. I am pleased that the United Nations (UN) Security > Council has reached a diplomatic framework for the expeditious > identification and elimination of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal, but > believe that we must remain vigilant to ensure that the Syrian > government follows the framework and does not use chemical weapons ever > again. This approach is especially important because it promises to keep > these weapons away from elements of the Syrian opposition (including > al-Qaeda) as well as Assad. > > The United States certainly will be more secure in a world free of these > weapons. I welcome the UN framework we developed with Russia that > achieves our national security objectives without the use of military > force. While challenges remain ahead in the deal’s implementation and > enforcement, I am nonetheless encouraged by recent developments. > > Rest assured that I will remain well informed regarding the ongoing > civil war in Syria, which has created an enormous humanitarian disaster. > Over 100,000 people have died as a result of the conflict, most of them > civilians. In addition to this grievous death toll, over two million > Syrians have fled their country and another four million are internally > displaced. Foreign fighters have joined the conflict and refugees have > poured into neighboring countries. Combined, these factors are > threatening to further destabilize an already fragile region. > > I travelled to Turkey and Jordan in July with Senate Armed Services > Committee Chairman Carl Levin in order to personally assess the state of > the Syrian conflict and its effect on our allies. I believe that the war > in Syria has put U.S. national security interests at stake. The flow of > refugees from Syria is straining Turkey’s resources and threatens to > overwhelm Jordan, both of which are strong U.S. allies in the region. > Syrian refugees to Jordan now number more than a million, which is an > extraordinary burden for a nation of only six and a half million people. > If our country experienced a similarly-proportioned influx, we would be > coping with more than 50 million refugees. > > In addition to the destabilizing refugee crisis, the conflict also has > provided an opportunity for Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, to increase > their influence. They are no friends of America, so it is certainly not > in our interest to see their regional influence increase. > > To end the Syrian civil war, refugee crisis, and destabilization in the > region, I support American efforts to work within an international > framework to apply pressure on the Assad regime and have voted in the > past to authorize the United States to assist with the arming and > training of vetted Syrian rebels. However, I strongly oppose committing > U.S. ground troops to the fight and will carefully weigh any decision to > reauthorize American assistance to rebel forces. The aim of American > policy should be to move the Assad regime (and its patron, Russia) to > the bargaining table, where a transition to a stable Syria – like the > recent framework for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons – can > be negotiated. > > Thank you for your message. Please contact me if I can be of service to > you in the future. > > Best Regards, > > ANGUS S. KING, JR. > United States Senator Dear Senator King, I’m glad that you will be remaining well-informed about developments in Syria. However, I’m not persuaded that the sources of your information will serve you well if you believe unconditionally that the Assad regime “barbarously used chemical weapons against its own citizens.” There has never been adequate independent evidence provided that this was the case. In terms of motivation, there was a huge amount to be gained on the part of the opponents of the regime from a chemical attack on civilians, for precisely the reasons we saw played out in this case — a lust for attack which American and Maine citizens justifiably resisted. On the other hand, the Assad regime had zero to gain — and a tremendous amount to lose — from such an attack on an area which had been stable for quite a while. The supposed Syrian communications intercept sounded more like a situation in which the government had no idea what had happened and was appalled. In terms of means, some of the rebels reported that they’d been given chemical weapons by Saudi now-intelligence-chief Prince Bandar (who then proceeded to threaten Vladimir Putin with attacks by Chechens that he claimed to control if Putin didn’t give in on Syria). The rebels had also reportedly overrun a Syrian military installation that had chemical weapons. Our Secretary of State’s attack presentation was a poor “trust-me” imitation of Secretary Powell’s embarrassing pre-war presentation on Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” Your willingness to fall into step with his unsubstantiated claims does not seem worthy of the reputation for independent thinking for which you are known and that we all voted for. Voting for the arming of “vetted” Syrian rebels, which include mostly foreign fighters (non-Syrians) among whom are numbered those we call “al-Qaeda,” is also not characteristic of independent thinking. I hope your careful weighing of such a policy in the future will take this into account. It should be noted that Syria’s “patron” Russia was the entity that brought this situation to a positive logical conclusion — the destruction of chemical weapons and their manufacturing capability (though no one has addressed such weapons as may still remain in the rebels’ hands). There is no indication that Mr. Obama’s proposed “surgical strike” for “punishment” would have achieved that. I sincerely hope that this isn’t a precursor of your future approach to the aggressive moves of our country which have earned it the contempt and/or fear of much of the world. Sincerely, Dick Atlee Southwest Harbor, ME _______________________________________________ HCCN mailing list

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