President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a "red line," be a "game changer" and possibly change his opinion about intervening to halt President Bashar Assad's slaughter of civilians in Syria. Reports from NATO, other allies and internal sources from Syria indicate that medical symptoms from civilians, soil samples and the discovery of fields of poisoned animals support allegations that sarin gas has been used in Syria's civil war.
Despite this breach of using a banned nerve agent, the Obama administration remains hesitant to pursue a specific course of action to stop the violence there.
The administration's reluctance will only embolden the Assad regime, as well as other rogue governments that might possess chemical and biological weapons. U.S. inaction is giving the Assad regime, after two years of wanton bloodshed, a green light to take even more outrageous steps to kill innocents. This undermines America's moral leadership. The time has come for assertive U.S. action to lead international efforts to end the bloodshed and promote the mainstream National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces — which consists of dozens of opposition groups and representatives from local administrative councils — and an interim government, which are diligently implementing seeds of democracy while marginalizing the extremists.
Beyond chemical weapons, the regime's use of heavy weaponry, Syria's deteriorating humanitarian disaster and the growing inability of the neighboring countries to cope with the massive number of Syrian refugees entering their borders are further reasons for the international community to intervene to help topple the regime. Assad's regime will eventually fall, but failing to act now will only cause more destruction and loss of life.
The U.S. must exert diplomatic pressure and force a negotiated transition of power. Support from the international community is crucial, and the U.S. and its allies should urge the United Nations and Russia to send an unequivocal message to Assad to refrain from using chemical weapons and ballistic missiles against his people.
The international community must also establish safe zones with protected air space from any shelling or missiles to allow for the free movement of Syrian refugees back into their country, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to internally displaced people. Also, it should provide medical facilities and supplies for injured civilians.
Syrians are ready for the fighting to stop and the rebuilding of the country to begin. The transition to democracy will not be an easy task. The Syrian coalition and the interim government recognize all the challenges awaiting once the Assad regime falls, including achieving reconciliation among ethnic and religious groups, undertaking reconstruction efforts, establishing a civil legal system and working to prevent retribution. International support will be crucial. But none of these efforts can begin in earnest until the Assad regime is replaced with a transitional government that can steer the country toward democratic elections.
The past decade's wars may have understandably made Americans weary of prolonged intervention in foreign conflicts. And as Syrians, we make these requests with a heavy heart. But we have painfully witnessed two years of mass destruction, lawlessness and more than 80,000 lives lost since the beginning of the revolution. It is critical that the Obama administration move swiftly and strategically to take the right course of action.