Hearing on Use of Chemical Weapons by Assad Regime

July 2, 2015

Photo by Dimashqi Lens

MPAC attended the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians on June 17. The hearing was convened by the Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), and was titled “Assad’s Abhorrent Chemical Weapons Attacks.” 

The hearing began with Rep. Royce’s firm condemnation of Assad’s use of chemical weapons—specifically, the use of chlorine barrel bombs. Royce, who has previously voiced his support for a no-fly zone over Syria, reiterated this sentiment again before yielding the floor to witness testimony. Former Ambassador Robert Ford echoed Rep. Royce’s condemnation of the Assad regime, stating that “It is committing war crimes without major punishment,” but questioned the wisdom of establishing a no-fly zone in the area. Both Dr. Tennari—who treated victims of the chlorine attacks—and Mr. Habib—a former banker who now works with Mayday Rescue and manages the training and equipping program for the White Helmet rescue teams in Syria—recounted how they had watched the chlorine-filled barrel bombs in horror. “I have more friends that have been killed than I have who are alive,” stated Dr. Tennari, before he played a video clip of the children he tried and failed to save from the poisonous attacks. 

Congressmen followed up the witnesses’ testimony with questions of their own. Most appeared to be on the same page as Dr. Annie Sparrow of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who stressed the urgency of establishing a no-fly zone and testified that doing so would not impede regional efforts to fight ISIS; however, tensions rose in the room as Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Ambassador Ford what was preventing U.S. forces from simply assassinating Assad in a Libya-esque operation, and when Rep. Issa asked the witnesses if they could really be sure that ousting Assad would not increase ISIS’s political power in the area, and pointed to Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon as an example.

MPAC has previously released a position paper regarding our stance on military intervention in Syria, stating that we believe that we cannot sit and watch the regime’s slaughter of innocent civilians, regardless of their faith. Thus, we support decisive, quick, and conditional military action in Syria. We continue to stand by this position and are in favor of the suggestions brought up in today’s hearing.



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