By Senator Marco Rubio
Every day, the situation in Syria grows more desperate and begs for a coherent and effective U.S. response. Despite 17 months of civilian massacres and chaos that has allowed radical jihadi groups to strengthen their hand in Syria, the Obama administration believed that the United Nations would resolve the matter, that Chinese and Russian leaders would eventually find their humanity, and that Kofi Annan would broker peace by convincing Assad to actually stop the killing.
On all counts, the administration was wrong, and it has had disastrous consequences for America's interests in the region and for thousands of innocent Syrians.
From the beginning, the uprising in Syria has been a watershed development in the Middle East and a significant factor impacting America's interests there. Today, the single greatest risk to American security in the Middle East is Iran, which is closely allied with Syria and has much riding on Assad's success. Therefore, Assad's fall would be devastating to Iran, as well as Hezbollah, and their plans to hurt the United States. Also at stake in Syria is the importance of preventing the massacre of innocent women, children and civilians.
Months ago, I called for the United States to step up and lead an aggressive international campaign to hasten Assad's departure from power and begin laying the groundwork for a post-Assad transition. I proposed immediate diplomatic actions and sanctions as well as other incremental steps to help anti-Assad forces get organized.
Among these measures, I called on the Obama administration to immediately abandon any wishful thinking that Annan's efforts would help or that China's and Russia's conscience would finally be shocked straight. Instead, the United States and other governments continued hiding behind the facade of his failed mediation efforts.
I called on the United States to work with NATO, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and others to establish safe zones in Turkey and, eventually, in parts of Syria. The administration failed to do this, exacerbating the current refugee problem.
I also stressed the importance of mitigating the unimaginable: that Assad's chemical weapons would be used. Instead of developing a plan to prevent this arsenal from being used or falling into the wrong hands, the American position of waiting for the Annan plan to deliver helped Assad buy precious time to mobilize his chemical weapons arsenal, which he may eventually use against his own people.