Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released the following statement on the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council's report on the conflict in Syria, which found that it is likely that chemical weapons have been used as the conflict has reached new heights:
"Despite mounting evidence that the Syrian government is deploying chemical weapons against the opposition forces, the Obama Administration has failed to lay out a strong, coherent strategy to address the escalating violence in Syria. The United States should and must play a leadership role in bringing this conflict to an end. From the humanitarian crisis, to the use of chemical weapons, and the continued arms shipments to Hezbollah, we are truly seeing the destabilizing effects on the region grow.
"Although both the President and Secretary have stated that the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons would cross a red line, they have yet to call for more decisive action, even as more and more signs point to the regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people. On the same day as the release of the UN report, France and Britain revealed the results of their own independent tests confirming the use of sarin gas, with the French government claiming to have conclusive evidence linking the Assad regime to the attacks. While the French and British governments have strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and advocated for more assertive international engagement, the Obama Administration continues to stay on the sidelines, calling for more evidence and tests instead of acting. Instead of leading a broad coalition of like-minded allies towards meaningful action, this Administration has failed to fully support the Syrian opposition against the regime, while placing its hopes in a negotiated settlement with Russia, the regime's most important ally and lead supplier of advanced weapons. The result is a weak and ineffective strategy that fails to impose any real consequences on the Syrian regime for either its apparent violation of the "red line" or its atrocities against the Syrian people. While the United States remains on the sidelines, the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and our credibility and commitment to the region continues to be questioned.
"Beyond what's going on in Syria, I think we have to remember that we have also drawn a "red line' that Iran cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. It is hard to imagine how Iran would be deterred from crossing that red line if Syria is allowed to cross the red line against chemical weapons without consequence. President Obama must respond appropriately so that the red line Syria has crossed does not begin to look like a pink line, or worse, no line at all. The credibility of the United States is on the line, and we cannot afford to sit idly by any longer."