Obama’s Blurring ‘Red Line’ on Syria: Chemical Weapons have been used!

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California delegation at Sen. Feinstein’s office

Members of the local chapter of the Syrian American Council participated in the National Advocacy Day for Syria on Capitol Hill on Thursday with Syrian-Americans and their supporters from across the country. The ‘advocacy day’ was organized by the Coalition for a Democratic Syria, of which SAC is a founding member, to urge Members of Congress to support House and Senate bills that would provide funding and other assistance to the opposition, permit securing and destroying Assad’s chemical weapons, and increase humanitarian aid.

The coalition reached many Senatorial and Congressional offices and delivered a policy brief to every office in both houses, including both CA Senators Feinstein and Boxer. Participants asked U.S. legislators to support the Syrian opposition by voting in favor of H.R. 1327 The Free Syria Act and S. 617 the Syria Democratic Transition Act, and by targeting the enablers of the Assad regime.

On the same day,  Sen. Feinstein released a statement following reports confirming that Assad has use of chemical weapons. President Obama warned Assad late last year that the use of, or preparation for use of, chemical weapons was a “red line” that would have “enormous consequences”.

In a statement released Thursday, Sen. Feinstein said:

It is clear that ‘red lines’ have been crossed and action must be taken to prevent larger scale use. Syria has the ability to kill tens of thousands with its chemical weapons. The world must come together to prevent this by unified action which results in the secure containment of Syria’s significant stockpile of chemical weapons.

statement on Syria was also issued by Speaker Boehner yesterday.

After two years of brutal conflict, it’s past time for the President to have a robust conversation with the Congress and the American people about how best to bring Assad’s tyranny to an end.

The Syrian Support Group, a U.S.-based group licensed to support the Free Syrian Army, issued a release confirming that chemical weapons have been used on Thursday.:

The Syrian Support Group (SSG) has learned from information sources in Damascus that two separate chemical attacks were conducted in the southern portion of the town of Daraya, near the town of Sahnaya, at 1:00am and 7:00am (Damascus time) on the morning of Thursday, April 25th. Roughly 105 victims were reported.

Damascus-based doctors operating in a Daraya medical center reported to SSG that a chemicalfilled rocket struck southern Daraya, near the neighboring town of Sahnaya, approximately eight miles southwest of the Damascus city center. Similar to the March 19, 2013 attacks in Damascus and Khan al-Asal, victims who were exposed to the chemical substance experienced symptoms including muscle spasms, bronchial spasms, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and miosis. 75 individuals were delivered to a Daraya medical facility following the initial attack at 1:00am. Another 30 individuals were affected by a second strike at 7:00 am.  

Doctors reported that victims were treated with atropine injections, oxygen, and pain relievers.Those treated responded positively within the first hour of arrival to the medical facility. At this time,specific numbers of individuals wounded or killed are not available. Large numbers of livestock were also killed by the attack. See the video…  for raw footage of the attacks’ effects, as recorded by Daraya Local Coordination Committee sources on the morning of April 25th.

Doctors have not yet confirmed the type of chemical used in the attacks. Symptoms mimic theeffects of the March 19th chemical attacks in Damascus and Khan al-Asal, in which Echothiophate—an organophosphate and chemical weapons “simulant” similar to Sarin—was used against rebel forces and civilian areas.

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, more than 80,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced. For more than a year, Syrian-American groups have been advocating for more U.S. involvement in support of the opposition in order to tip the balance and finish off the regime. The community’s asks have shifted overtime from the establishment of “safe zones and humanitarian corridors” to a “no-fly zone” to supporting the vetted elements of the FSA and the local civilian administrative councils.

When I contributed this blogpost back in December 2012, the death toll was 40,000. Four months later, the death toll has doubled. Obama must step up to save Syria instead of drawing blurry color-coded lines.

About Rashad Al-Dabbagh

Arab American community activist based in Anaheim's Little Arabia. Founder/Director of the Arab American Civic Council. Follow him on Twitter at @Happy_Arab.