Evidence has emerged of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, with hundreds of people killed and thousands injured. Any attack on civilians is a war crime, and MADRE unequivocally denounces the use of chemical weapons by any government or armed group.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration's response to this violence is more violence. The United States is planning air strikes against targets it designates as linked to the Assad regime's military capacity. Bombing Syrian government facilities will only deepen the conflict and worsen the suffering of the people of Syria. US air strikes will not reduce the likelihood of chemical weapons being deployed again. In fact, a US/NATO intervention could well trigger a massive escalation of the war. Instead, the US, Russia and governments in the region must stop sending weapons into Syria.
The best response to the horror of chemical weapons is to reinvigorate a push for the Geneva II peace talks. The US should engage with Russia and Saudi Arabia, key allies of the regime and the rebels, respectively, to put pressure on armed actors to implement a ceasefire and to participate in talks.
Engagement with Russia requires US assurances that the US does not seek unilateral regime change in Syria but is prepared to support talks with the Syrian government aimed at a negotiated transition.
The US must also desist from efforts to exclude Iran from the negotiations. All warring parties and their sponsors are needed in diplomatic efforts to negotiate an end to the civil war.
For any peace talks to yield real results, women must be included at the table. In the past two years, Syrian women and girls have been targeted with violence, including sexual assault, as a deliberate tactic of warfare. Women and children make up the majority of refugees spilling over borders into neighboring countries. Their priorities must be a central concern of any future peace talks. Similarly, the voices of peaceful, democratic Syrian civil society groups must be heard in Geneva.
Finally, the Obama Administration must dramatically expand humanitarian aid to the region. The number of refugee children has hit a disastrous milestone: one million children. The scale of this crisis demands an urgent increase in funding for relief, not more military spending.
MADRE stands with Syrian women and families, and we call on the Obama Administration to:
- Stop the flow of weapons into Syria
- Renew focus on diplomacy to end the conflict
- Increase humanitarian aid to the region