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Public Statements

Assad Must Go

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, the outrages perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his own people have laid bare his regime's total lack of legitimacy. The shelling of Homs evokes memories of the 1982 massacre at Hama, in which his father ordered the Syrian army into the rebellious city, killing up to 40,000 people.

* After the elder Assad died in 2000, the new president, in interviews with western journalists, made several cautious statements that led many Syrians to believe that their new president would be willing to take at least the first steps towards democracy in their ancient land. Indeed, the first months of the new regime saw a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which continued to some degree until the fall of 2001, when the government sharply reversed course and ended what had become known as the Damascus Spring.

* Similarly, others saw his succession and the September 11 attacks as an opportunity to coax Syria into playing a more constructive regional role, especially in Lebanon, and as a chance to widen the circle of Arab-Israeli
peace. As with the domestic opening, this too proved fleeting and illusory. Tentative Syrian cooperation in the opening months of the campaign against al Qaeda after 9/11 did not last and, in 2005, Syrian intelligence officers joined with Hezbollah in murdering Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri and provoking a war with Israel in the summer of 2006. In Iraq, Syria worked with Iran to supply arms to radical Shiite militias, even as the country sought to join its ally in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

* Now the Assad regime has turned on its own people, who have been inspired by their fellow Arabs in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere to rise up to demand their rights. As Americans and as the custodians of a great democracy that was forged in revolution, we have a special obligation to support and nurture the aspirations of others who seek to secure for themselves and their posterity the blessings of liberty.

* We in Congress must use every diplomatic and economic tool at our disposal to end this dictatorship and I urge President Obama to support the Syrian people in their quest for an end to the corruption and brutality in the Assad regime.

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