Casey Statement on President Obama’s Request for U.S. To Train and Equip Vetted Members of Moderate Syrian Opposition

Casey Statement on President Obama’s Request for U.S. To Train and Equip Vetted Members of Moderate Syrian Opposition

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group released the following statement following President Obama’s proposed authority to train and equip vetted members of the moderate Syrian opposition.

 “I welcome the President’s request for authorization to provide training and equipment for vetted, moderate Syrian opposition fighters.  For nearly three years, I have been calling for the Administration to increase its support to the moderate opposition, including in a letter to the President in May.  The Syrian opposition is confronting the brutality of the Assad’s regime and its Hezbollah allies as well as the extreme violence of ISIS and its supporters, which are trying to destabilize the entire region.  The Assad regime continues to terrorize the Syrian people, dropping barrel bombs on schools and hospitals.  More than 10,000 children have been killed thus far.

When I met with opposition President Jarba earlier this year, he expressed his firm commitment to fighting extremist forces like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups.  Further, this request includes a Regional Stabilization Initiative that would help our partners in the region manage the effects of the fighting in Syria, which are spilling over its borders.  Instability in the region not only strengthens ISIS but the Iranian regime, Hezbollah, and Assad.

This decision is in our national security interest.  I hope the Senate will move quickly to provide the necessary authorization and funding, so that we can begin to help turn the tide of battle in Syria.” 

Key Record Points

  • On May 8, 2014, Senator Casey sent a letter to President Obama that calls for a more robust strategy in Syria. While the Administration has dedicated significant humanitarian aid to combat human suffering, Senator Casey has made the case that these steps are needed to change the dynamics on the ground.
  • On May 8, Senator Casey gave floor remarks detailing the continued need to provide the well vetted moderate opposition with lethal and non-lethal aid.
  • On May 7, 2014, Senator Casey met with Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba to hear first-hand about the situation on the ground.
  • On May 5, 2014, Senator Casey cosponsored S.2209, the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2014. This would require the U.S. State Department to report on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, by both the Assad regime and violent extremist groups and other combatants involved in the conflict.
  • On April 29, 2014 Senator Casey released a statement on Assad’s announcement to run for re-election, condemning this action as a reminder of Assad’s determination to retain power no matter the coast.
  • On April 15, in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Casey called for the funding of President Obama’s request to provide bilateral assistance to Jordan as well as to the UN agencies working there to aid the country as it deals with the massive influx of refugees from Syria.
  • On March 12, Senator Casey, in remarks on the Senate floor, called on President Obama to develop and submit to Congress a more robust U.S. strategy for addressing the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
  • Senator Casey is an original cosponsor of the Syrian Humanitarian Resolution of 2014 (S. Res. 384), introduced by 19 senators on March 12, which condemns the unlawful use of violence against civilians in Syria, urges all parties in the country to allow for immediate, unfettered access to humanitarian aid, supports the immediate and full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139, and calls on the international community to continue assisting innocent victims of the crisis, both internally displaced within Syria, and in neighboring countries. If adopted, the resolution calls for the President to submit the new humanitarian strategy to relevant Senate committees within 90 days.
  • On March 10, Senator Casey released a statement following a new report by Save the Children which detailed the plight of Syria’s children during the country’s war. He acknowledged the Obama Administration and the American people for the billions in humanitarian aid that has been delivered to the Syrian people but we must work with the international community to strengthen our efforts.  He also expressed him commitment to continuing to push for passage of his bipartisan legislation, the Syria Democratic Transition Act that would bolster support for vetted members of the opposition and aid innocent Syrian civilians who have been victims of this violent conflict.
  • On January 19, 2014, Senator Casey released a statement after the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) voted to attend the Geneva peace conference.
  • On January 16, 2014, Senator Casey urged the Obama Administration to resume non-lethal aid to vetted members of Syria’s moderate opposition forces. He wrote in a letter to Secretary Kerry that the administration should articulate clear goals and help the opposition negotiate from a position of strength. Not long after, the Administration resumed such aid to the opposition.
  • On September 14, 2013, Senator Casey released a statement on the agreement between the U.S. and Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons. He wrote that the announcement of the agreement was encouraging. It is essential to ensure the chemical weapons are removed and ultimately destroyed and the U.S. must remain vigilant.
  • On September 3, 2013, following an intelligence briefing from the Administration, Senator Casey released a statement that he had more evidence of the national security imperative in Syria and the need to authorize the limited use of force against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
  • On August 31, 2013, Senator Casey responded to President Obama’s remarks on Syrian chemical weapon use noting that a debate on this issue is very important, though he wished it had started upon his comprehensive strategy set forth in August 2011. The day before, on August 30, Senator Casey received an intelligence briefing and stated that he did not doubt that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people and that it is in the U.S. national security interested to respond to these attacks.
  • On June 13, 2013, Senator Casey responded to the Administration’s statement on Syrian chemical weapon use by declaring that the time for U.S. action is overdue. Senator Casey insisted that Assad must go. The day previously, Senator Casey spoke with the military leader of the Syrian opposition General Salim Idris and he confirmed that the situation inside the country was dire.
  • On June 4, 2013, Senator Casey wrote a letter to Baroness Catherine Ashton of the EU urging them to designate Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization due in part to their military support of Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime. Less than two months later, on July 22, 2013, the EU implemented this new distinction.
  • On May 31, 2013, Senator Casey responded to reports that the Russian Federation had delivered S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime. He called the reports deeply disturbing, but also noted that he was disappointed in the State Department’s statement which asserted that Russia was simply delivering on a past contract with the Assad regime and that this action would not derail negotiations.
  • In May, 2013, Senator Casey introduced seven amendments to S. 960, the Syria Transition Support Act, which were all accepted into the bill. These amendments would require additional sanctions, provide money for the establishment of an inclusive and transparent electoral system, support Syria’s intellectual capital, and support further humanitarian assistance, among others.
  • In April 2013, Senator Casey visited Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank where he discussed the deteriorating situation in Syria, the ongoing threat posed by Iran, and the Middle East peace process. In Turkey, he met with activists and leadership from the Syrian opposition where he discussed the Syrian Democratic Transition Act which would enhance U.S. support for the Syrian people. Senator Casey also visited the Kilis refugee camp on the Turkish border with Syria where he met with Syrian refugees and toured the facilities.
  • On March 19, 2013 Senator Casey chaired a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs hearing titled “Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis.” The hearing focused on the men, women, and children who suffer daily, despite the courageous efforts of aid providers. He expressed concerns about the plight of refugees fleeing from the oppressive regime in Syria.
  • On March 19, 2013, Senator Casey also introduced S.617, the Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013, along with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. This bill includes a combination of humanitarian assistance, non-lethal equipment and training to the vetted elements of the Free Syrian Army, and sanctions against elements of the regime. S.617 authorizes additional U.S. assistance to the Syrian people – both inside and outside Syria. The bill also includes seed funding for a Syria Reconstruction Fund, which would help the Syrian people rebuild their lives after Assad. The legislation would also expand sanctions against the government of Bashar al Assad, strengthen U.S. support for democratically-oriented political opposition groups and help ensure stability and security in Syria during and after a political transition. S.617 was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 19.
  • On March 15, 2013, Senator Casey released a statement on the second anniversary of the demonstrations against Assad in Syria, again urging the international community to work with the vetted Syrian opposition to build their capacity and prepare for Assad’s removal.
  • In November 2012, Senator Casey co-authored a Senate resolution with Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and James Risch of Idaho, which urges the European Union to sanction Lebanese Hezbollah both for terrorism and for its direct and material support to Bashar al-Assad in his war against the Syrian people. This legislation was co-sponsored by 65 Senators and was agreed to in the Senate on December 21, 2012.
  • In August 2012, Senator Casey introduced S. 3498, the Syria Humanitarian Support and Democratic Transition Assistance Act, which would provide increased humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Syrian conflict.  It would also call upon the U.S. government to prepare for the challenges that will emerge in a post-transition Syria, including securing weapons stockpiles, reintegrating former combatants, and supporting institutional capacity building.  Finally, the bill would establish a Special Envoy for Syria to coordinate U.S. engagement with the country and to ensure that the U.S. government supports efforts to bring about a democratic transition.
  • On June 20, 2012, Senator Casey became a cosponsor of S. Res. 494, a resolution condemning the Government of the Russian Federation for providing weapons to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. This resolution urges Russia to immediately end all transfers of weapons to the Assad regime, support international sanctions against Syria, and support a peaceful transition of leadership in the Government of Syria, starting with the early departure of Bashar al-Assad.  Unfortunately, this resolution did not receive a vote in the 112th Congress.
  • In April 2012, Senator Casey introduced S. Res. 435, calling for democratic change in Syria with Senator Rubio.  The resolution calls on the Obama administration to continue to provide support, including communications equipment, to the political opposition in Syria and robust humanitarian assistance to those affected by the ongoing violence.  It also calls for the development of a plan to identify and secure the Assad regime’s stockpiles of conventional, biological and chemical weapons.
  • In March 2012, Senator Casey sent a letter to President Obama requesting the designation of Syria for temporary protected status (TPS).  This designation allows foreign nationals to legally remain in the United States if returning to their home country would pose a serious threat to their personal safety.  On March 23, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Syria would be designated for TPS.
  • Senator Casey chaired a subcommittee hearing on U.S. policy in Syria on November 9, 2011.  The Subcommittee heard testimony from the U.S. Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, as well as Luke Bronin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • In an August 2011 Washington Post op-ed, Senator Casey wrote that Assad must step down.  Senator Casey was the first U.S. Senator to call for Assad’s resignation. Within two weeks, President Barack Obama officially called on Assad to resign.
  • In May 2011, Senator Casey cosponsored a resolution expressing support for peaceful demonstrations and universal freedom in Syria and condemning the human rights violations by the Assad regime.  In June, he joined a bipartisan group of Senators in releasing a statement applauding the International Atomic Energy Agency for referring Syria to the United Nations Security Council because of its noncompliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The statement also pressed the Obama Administration to call for President Assad’s removal from power, which it has now done.

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