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Senators Urge Obama to Rethink Syria Policy Senators Urge Obama to Rethink Syria Policy

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Defense

Senators Urge Obama to Rethink Syria Policy

The bipartisan group says boosting humanitarian efforts is no longer enough.

Members of Congress have criticized the president for not being forceful enough in his handling of Syria.(BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

As the three-year anniversary of Syria's civil war approaches, a bipartisan group of senators has a message for President Obama: It's time for a new strategy on Syria.

Nine senators used a letter on Friday to urge the president to "press forward" with the administration's "reexamination" of its policy, adding that while they have backed humanitarian aid efforts, "events on the ground are proving that this is not enough."

The letter was signed by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Christopher Coons, D-Del.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Angus King, I-Maine.

 

Despite frequent congressional gridlock, they write, they "believe there is still strong, bipartisan support in the Senate for developing and implementing a comprehensive Syria strategy" that could pave the way for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power and let moderate opposition groups lead during the transition to a new government.

But the senators are vague on details of what that strategy should entail, writing instead that the "current balance of power" needs to be changed so that Assad "no longer believes he can remain Syria's ruler."

They add that the moderate opposition forces and the Syrian Opposition Coalition—a band of opposition groups—should be given "enhanced support" to help "sustain their momentum and prevent the establishment of terrorist safe havens throughout north Syria."

Kaine, Menendez, and King also backed a resolution introduced Thursday that calls for an increase in humanitarian access and a decrease in various forms of violence. The resolution also calls for the president to present a strategy to Congress within three months that deals with how the United States is going to tackle Syria's humanitarian needs and deal with human-rights violations within the country and the region.

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