After the bitterly partisan presidential election, the Syrian American Council is hoping there will be one issue where both parties can find agreement: the need for action in Syria.
They have combined the election slogans of both parties* for their new advertising campaign, Save Syrian Children:
“Stopping the atrocities committed by the Assad regime should be a priority and our moral obligation as Americans,” says Rashad al-Dabbagh. He is the Communications Director at the Syrian American Council (SAC), a group that has lobbied hard for American action in Syria.
Last week, SAC unveiled an advertising campaign to make Americans aware of what al-Dabbagh describes as the “daily tragedies taking place in Syria.”
SAC placed the above poster in 250 cars in the DC Metro. They also plan to use social media to spread awareness, with a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SaveSyrianChildren already launched and YouTube videos coming next week.
SAC hopes that their campaign will help spur American action on Syria. While the United States has already provided millions in humanitarian aid to Syria and has imposed harsh sanctions on Bashar al-Assad’s government, they have been part of an international community that has been unable to unite on a strategy to end Assad’s rule. Part of the problem has been the lack of a viable alternative government; until last week, the major opposition group, the Syrian National Council, was not seen as widely representative.
A new opposition coalition formed on Sunday, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, may offer the international community a new path forward. In just a few days, it has garnered both regional recognition from the Arab League and international recognition from United Nations Security Council members including France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Many have suggested that the coalition could be armed or directly supported, which France appeared to open the door to on Tuesday.
Not all countries have gone as far as France in pledging direct support of the new coalition. The U.S. has said it is waiting to see how it develops in the near future. At a press briefing on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said “We’re going to look for ... more concrete action, the establishment of these technical committees going forward, and to see that they have a demonstrated ability to represent the Syrian people.”
Reuters also reports that some members of the Arab League, including Iraq, Algeria, and Lebanon, had reservations about the coalition. However, the international community may be forced to action by the cross-border violence in Syria, which has led to friction with both Israel and Turkey in recent days.
For his part, al-Dabbagh sees “recent developments” as a sign that “the international community is more willing to support toppling the regime either by establishing no-fly zones and/or providing the necessary arms to the rebels to finish the job.” The Syrian American Council will continue to lobby the U.S. government to arm the Syrian opposition through its campaign over the coming weeks.
Increasingly, experts are agreeing with the Syrian American Council’s position. A recent report by the Brookings Institution advocates this, arguing that “the militarization of Syria’s crisis is a reality” and “[i]t is high time for the United States to take the lead” in channeling arms to the rebels.
However, the issue may not be as bipartisan as the Syrian American Council hopes. While defeated presidential candidate Mitt Romney advocated arming the Syrian rebels in a speech in early October, President Barack Obama has been reluctant to express his support for this option, saying in the third presidential debate: “we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping; that we’re not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region.”
*For those of you who slept through the last six months, the two campaign slogans are "We Built It" and "Forward."