Dear Secretary Kerry:
Many in Congress have watched with deepening alarm the unfolding crisis in Syria. As we approach the third anniversary of the start of peaceful protests in Syria against the corrupt and brutal rule of the Assad regime, we believe there is an urgent need to take stock of American national security interests, objectives and strategic options. The exceedingly violent civil struggle in Syria has created an opportunity for terrorists, both Syrian born and foreign fighters, to exploit. Clearly, the security and stability of close allies and friends of the United States surrounding Syria have been put in jeopardy by the conflict. Meanwhile, a humanitarian abomination without equal in this century is unfolding before our very eyes.
While we appreciate your efforts to forge a diplomatic solution, we see no indication that the Assad regime is prepared to engage in serious talks about a meaningful political transition in Syria; talks that meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future. At the same time, serious questions remain about whether the Syrian opposition delegation presently engaged in peace talks in Geneva actually represents the majority of those forces opposing Assad. As such, the prospect that the fighting could go on perpetuating the suffering, instability and terrorist threat, is quite real and represents a serious risk to American interests. We have also been troubled by the lack of focused attention during current negotiations on the perilous plight of Syria's religious minorities, including the ancient Christian population which fears that their fate could parallel that of Iraq's Christian population -- which is a fraction of what it was just ten years ago.
Therefore, we believe the time is right for convening a non-governmental, bipartisan Syria Study Group, in the tradition of the Iraq Study Group, led by former senior government officials and statesmen with the ability to draw upon an enormous reservoir of foreign policy, national security policy and Syria-related expertise to produce a report, as quickly as possible, that would help the administration and Congress identify and implement options for bringing this horrible crisis to a close in a manner fully consistent with the interests and objectives of the United States. The magnitude of human suffering demands creative policy options and we believe a Syrian Study Group would be well-positioned to buttress the diplomatic efforts already underway in pursuit of peace and justice for the people of this war-torn land.
The Atlantic Council, a non-partisan Washington, DC-based institution of great repute and capability, has stepped forward and volunteered to play the key facilitating role for a Syria Study Group. Among other things, the Atlantic Council promotes engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic Community in meeting global challenges. Syria is, without doubt, a global challenge requiring the coordinated efforts of the entire Atlantic Community, as well as other nations and actors. The Council would, in its facilitating role, identify and recruit senior bi-partisan leadership for the effort and assist those leaders in accomplishing the mission.
We support the Council's initiative and express our intention to support and cooperate fully with the Syria Study Group. We earnestly request that the Department of State and other relevant departments and agencies of the Executive Branch render their support and cooperation as well. Your personal commitment to this endeavor would be greatly appreciated.