By Rep Mike Rogers
Simply pulling the covers over our eyes and hoping for the best is not an acceptable policy for the most powerful nation on Earth.
The conflict in Syria has devolved into an all-out, sectarian-fueled proxy war that is spilling over throughout the Middle East, directly threatening America's national security interests now and teetering on the brink of complete disaster in the near future. We must act urgently to shape the outcome to one that is more in line with America's interests before it's too late.
The United States government should lead our allies in a transition to a post-Assad Syria. To establish credibility with our Arab League, Turkish and other NATO allies, the U.S. must bring our unique capabilities to bear on the problem.
We should pursue a plan that does not require American boots on the ground, but instead has us work with Arab League partners in the south and the Turks in the north to create safe zones in Syria from which the U.S. and our allies can train, arm and equip vetted opposition forces. These efforts could have the potential of turning the tide once and for all against the Assad regime to deliver a peace negotiation. Then the United States would have the credibility it needs for a seat at the table during the transition to a post-Assad Syria.
Preventing al-Qaeda or Hezbollah from getting chemical weapons is in America's interests. Preventing man-portable, air-defense systems and other advanced weapons systems from flooding the Levant and the greater Middle East is in our interest. And eliminating an Iranian proxy regime is in our interest.
Without American leadership, the situation threatens to go from awful to worse. Day by day, the situation in Syria is growing more perilous, as innocent civilians are being slaughtered by helicopter gunships, war planes and scud missiles. As many as 90,000 people are dead. Meanwhile, the Russians thumb their nose at the rest of the world by supporting the Assad regime with no apparent consequences.
And still we are essentially on the sidelines as an observer, hoping for the best. We hand out some night vision goggles here and some Meals Ready to Eat there.
Press reports indicate that majority-Shiite Iran has directed as many as 4,000 Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, bringing with them arms and advanced technologies to the Assad regime that are turning back opposition advances. Majority-Sunni Gulf nations and the Turks are arming and assisting the Syrian opposition. This sectarian violence is spilling over into Iraq and Lebanon.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria are flooding into Turkey and Jordan, creating trouble for those American allies as well. The country we once knew as Syria essentially no longer exists. Meanwhile, last week, a United Nations report report confirmed what the the United Kingdom has confirmed weeks before, that chemical weapons had been used in Syria
This is a clear violation of President Obama's red line issued last August. The United States of America's leadership obligations in the world demand that our red lines cannot be dotted and our lines in the sand cannot retreat backwards.
With each passing day of U.S. inaction or pursuit of unrealistic, half-hearted diplomatic efforts, we are losing our credibility with the opposition and harming our ability to get to a political solution in Syria that ends the killing.
Some of America's closest allies such as the United Kingdom, Israel, Jordan and France are asking the U.S. to get more involved because the deteriorating situation has real-world consequences for all of us. Chemical weapons and highly advanced conventional weapons are in jeopardy of falling into the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists or Hezbollah, which has terrorist cells throughout Europe and is itching to bloody Israel's nose or worse. Al-Qaeda has sent out word that their top priority for jihad is in Syria. And Assad's arsenal makes Moammar Gadhafi's in Libya look like an antique gun show.
The potential consequences of America's continued policy in Syria is why a consensus of Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate have called for stepped up U.S. involvement and leadership. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved bipartisan legislation to arm the Syrian opposition. Even former national security advisor to President Obama, Gen. James Jones, stated his support for arming the opposition under the right circumstances.
Simply pulling the covers over our eyes and hoping for the best is not an acceptable policy for the most powerful nation on Earth, which the rest of the world looks to for leadership. The Obama administration must decide to stand firmly against the Assad regime and its henchman who are massacring tens of thousands of innocents and unleashing a tornado of chaos in the heart of the Middle East that if left unaddressed could have serious consequences for the rest of the world for years to come.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.