Dear Members of Congress,
I write you as President of the Syrian American Council, the largest and oldest grassroots organization of Syrian Americans, to request your urgent action with respect to expanding Russian involvement in Syria. Contrary to the claims of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia so far has not targeted ISIS, but U.S.-endorsed Syrian rebels who threaten ISIS and the Assad regime. Russia's military campaign stands to strengthen ISIS, irreparably damage U.S. credibility, and jeopardize the prospects of a Syrian political solution. On behalf of all Syrian Americans, I call upon Congress to mount a strong response.
Russia is growing more aggressive in its efforts to intimidate the Anti-ISIS Coalition in Syria. It has set up advanced anti-aircraft weapons that can only be meant to deter the Coalition, since ISIS has no planes; it has conducted overflights in Syria with planes that had shut off their transponders and had not coordinated with the Coalition; and, on September 30th, it began striking America's declared anti-ISIS partners, while demanding that U.S. warplanes clear Syrian airspace in an hour’s time. I urge Congress to mount a firm response, before Russia can further embarrass the United States on the world stage.
Russian warplanes carried out their first bombings in Syria on Wednesday, and they struck known areas of strength for the U.S.-endorsed, anti-ISIS Free Syrian Army (FSA). Strikes outside Homs city killed Iyad al-Dik, commander of the FSA-affiliated Homs Liberation Movement, alongside many civilians. Strikes outside Hama city directly targeted the base of the Dignity Grouping, another FSA affiliate. Meanwhile, the regime escalated shelling against the powerful FSA-affiliated Southern Front, resulting in the death of Brigade Commander Anwar al-Hamid.On Thursday, Russia even struck the FSA-affiliated Mountain Falcons Brigade, which is very active on the front lines against ISIS near Aleppo.
The ongoing Russian attacks resemble ISIS's wave of assassinations against moderate Syrian rebel leaders in late 2013, which were meant to remove all alternatives to ISIS's brutal reign. If the attacks continue, ISIS will be supercharged and hopes for a political solution will fade as more moderate rebels are slowly decimated. In the absence of U.S. action, many Syrians will assume that the U.S. endorses this outcome, which will only further strengthen ISIS and undermine the FSA. Even global American credibility could be compromised; U.S. allies in the Mideast and Eastern Europe alike are now watching Syria to see if the Americans will stand up to Putin.
The Syrian American Council