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Rubio Discusses Legislation to Aid the Syrian People

Mar 19, 2013 | Blog

Senator Marco Rubio
Press Gaggle on Syria Transition to Democracy Act
March 19, 2013

Senator Marco Rubio: “Why do we even care about Syria? Why do we want to get engaged in an issue that involves another country and another people at a time when we have so many problems here at home?

“Well, it’s in the national interest of the United States for Bashar al-Assad to leave. It’s in our national interest for that government to fall. If you look at all of these horrible terrorist attacks that have been carried out against our allies, against the region, many against the United States – against our troops in the region – Syria and the government of Assad is right in the middle of it. And they basically are the organizing waypoint for many of the major terrorist plans and attacks that have been carried out against the United States and our people, and our allies, and our interests around the world. So, seeing Assad leave is important from that front.

“Secondarily, do not underestimate the importance of the Assad regime to Iran. The fall of Assad is perhaps the most damaging sanction of all that could be imposed on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And so, it’s in the interest of the United States that Assad should go.

“When the people of a country rise up to remove from power a person who is so anti-American and so pro-terrorism as Bashar al-Assad, we should try to support them to the extent possible – within the limits of our national interest. And that’s why I’m so proud to be part of this legislation, which increases the role the United States can play while still ensuring that we’re not doing more than what we should be doing, but that we’re doing enough in what has become a horrifying humanitarian crisis with over 70,000 people killed in this crisis. Many of them innocent civilians who were caught in the exchange or even worse targeted by the regime, which tells you the nature of this regime. We talked about one million refugees that are now living in these camps in different countries in addition to the horrible situation these refugees are facing. It’s putting a strain on some of these countries as well. For example, Jordan is struggling with the weight of having to deal with all of those refugees that now find themselves within that country. And Jordan is a strategic ally of the United States of great importance. So that’s why I’m happy to be a part of this bill.

“And two things that I would like to add on. One is that this expands sanctions against the central bank of Syria and against designated individuals. And this isn’t going to encourage the administration to sanction foreign financial institutions that knowingly do business with the central bank of Syria. This would be a devastating, perhaps final economic blow, to the Assad regime, to its ability to continue to fund the murder of innocents and the targeting of innocents as we’ve seen. And it will also limit his ability to carry this war beyond the borders of Syria. We’ve already seen yesterday where jet airplanes targeted elements within Lebanon, meaning this now has spread into Lebanon for the first time. So I think this is extremely problematic. And this sanction, I think will be a significant one in helping bring this about as quickly as possible.

“Obviously securing the weapons, do not underestimate the kind of weapon stockpiles that are in Syria. It’s not just chemical and biological agents. They have advanced anti-aircraft weaponry, which poses a tremendous danger, especially if it falls into the hands of terrorists.

“My last point that I would make about all of this is that this is of strategic importance to the United States because of what it says about our role in the world. I think the United States has always stood on the side of human rights, should always continue to stand on the side of democracy. And I think this is an opportunity for us to continue to do this in an intelligent way that doesn’t overextend us and continues to allow us to focus on those issues happening here at home and in other parts of the world.”