Washington D.C.House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement at today’s hearing on the security situation in Syria:


“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you also to our witnesses here today.  We appreciate you coming to help us think through how the United States should respond to the ongoing conflict in Syria.


“Syria presents us with an enormously complex series of challenges.  An increasingly ethno-sectarian civil war has led to the deaths of nearly 100,000 people.  Millions have been displaced internally or driven out of Syria and into neighboring countries which are themselves strained to care for these refugees and in some cases threatened with destabilization.  Iran and Russia are arming the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iranian units are fighting for the regime, and foreign fighters have streamed into the country to fight for both the regime and the opposition, including an al Qaeda affiliate.  The opposition itself, both on the political and military levels, is fractured and prone to infighting.  On top of this, Syria has an enormous arsenal of chemical weapons, which seem to have remained secure to date, but which greatly concern everyone who looks at the situation there.


“The United States does not have many good options to positively impact the situation on the ground.  All of us would like to stop the killing, end the threat of terrorism, control the chemical weapons, end Syria’s role as Iran’s conduit for weapons to Hezbollah, and help the Syrian people achieve peace and democracy.  But the options that are presented to us, no fly zones, arming some portion of the rebels, or even air strikes on Assad’s remaining air force, are unlikely to accomplish these goals.  And none of them are likely to build a cohesive, moderate opposition that, even if they won, is likely to be a democracy that respects all of Syria’s ethnic groups, is capable of combating extremism, and is a net contributor to regional security.


“Faced with all of this, my conclusion is that the right path for the United States at the moment is to work with the international community and the Russians where we can to bring the Assad regime and the political opposition to an agreement on a transitional government in Syria.  The so-called “Geneva II” track is not likely to be easy and it may not be successful.  But if it works, it is the least bad option for Syria and the region. 


“While the diplomatic track is progressing, I believe we need to work with our regional allies and countries in the neighborhood, to deal with the fallout from Syria and to prepare for the worst.  We should be doing as much as possible to help Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq deal with the refugee problem.  We need to share as much intelligence with our regional allies as we can to forestall extremists from spreading from Syria to other countries or from taking advantage of the Syrian situation to cause local sectarian and ethnic conflicts.  We should work with Israel to stem the flow of weapons to Hezbollah and to enhance their security.  And we should work with everyone we can to help ensure the security of Syria’s chemical weapons—it is not in the interests of anyone to have those fall into the hands of al Qaeda or any other extremist group.  I know that we are doing some of this, but I hope our witnesses can help us think through what more we can do in this areas and other areas to help contain problems stemming from the Syrian conflict.


“Again, thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, and thanks to our witnesses for appearing today.  I yield back.”