Rubio: US National Interests At Stake In Conflict In Syria
The United States has significant national interests at stake in the conflict in Syria. First, Assad is a close ally and supporter of the Iranian regime. He has allowed Syria to be used as a staging ground and way station for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Second, an unstable Syria threatens to become the premier operational area in the world from which jihadis can train, plan and carry out attacks against our allies in the region including Israel and even the United States.
That is why at the outset of this conflict more than two years ago, I argued that the United States should identify non-jihadist groups in Syria and help train and equip them so that they could not only topple Asaad, but also be the best organized, trained and armed group on the ground in a post-Assad Syria.
Instead, the President chose to lead from behind. The result is that the best funded and armed groups in Syria today are Assad’s Iranian-backed killers, Hezbollah fighters aligned with Assad, and rebels with links to al Qaeda.
President Obama’s inaction is why we are now left with an emboldened war criminal in power in Syria, willing to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians. And it leaves us with a chaotic situation in much of Syria that is becoming like pre-9/11 Afghanistan, the premier operational area in the world for foreign jihadist fighters.
Because the President failed to act in the right way at the right time, we are now left with no good options. Failing to act would further embolden Assad and his Iranian sponsors, leaving the impression that America is feckless and impotent. And a limited attack would do nothing to change the dynamics of the conflict, but could trigger a broader and even more dangerous conflict in the region.
Given those harsh realities, if the President concludes that military action is warranted, instead of having administration officials leak details to the press, he must clearly lay out to Congress and the American people why this is in our national interest, what the goals of this action are, and how the military action he is taking would achieve this objective.
I am deeply concerned that so far he has failed to do this. Military action, taken simply to save face, is not a wise use of force. My advice is to either lay out a comprehensive plan using all of the tools at our disposal that stands a reasonable chance of allowing the moderate opposition to remove Assad and replace him with a stable secular government. Or, at this point, simply focus our resources on helping our allies in the region protect themselves from the threat they and we will increasingly face from an unstable Syria.