Citizens for a Secure and Safe America, C4SSA, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting democracy in Syria so that its citizens may have the opportunity to live in a free, fair and prosperous country. Our organization believes that an open and democratic Syria will lead to a safer, more secure America, and will strengthen America’s national security interests by countering hostile forces in Syria and its neighboring countries. C4SSA strives to ensure that America’s interests in the Middle East are consistent with our democratic values of liberty, freedom and equality. C4SSA is determined to speak out on behalf of all Syrian civilians who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to years of conflict, war and instability.
C4SSA is made up of American citizens of Syrian origin who became advocates for a new and peaceful Syria after peaceful protests broke out in their home country in spring of 2011. Those protests were driven against a dictatorship led by two consecutive Assad regimes that have ruled Syria for almost two generations. From the time spanning between the achievement of independence in 1945 and the Ba’ath Party takeover in 1963, Syria was a politically pluralistic society. Free elections were sometimes offset by military coups, but systemic repression and state terror were not part of Syria’s governance. This changed with the coming of the Ba’ath Party. Hafez al-Assad would eventually come to power and rule with an iron fist. He was among the worst dictators in the region, competing with the likes of Saddam Hussein, as an aggressor against his own people. Assad’s alliances with terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda following Iraq’s liberation, and the PKK in the 1990’s, are well known.
Since Assad, the father, began his rule in 1970, Syria started to be drained of its human capital and academic resources as well as its diversity because many Syrians and Syrian minorities, mainly Jews and Christians, left the country fearing for their lives. Whereas historically, Syria was a land that welcomed refugees and minorities from places like Armenia, Dagestan, and the Balkans among other places, this pluralistic and beautifully diverse country rapidly devolved into a nation from which its very own citizens ran during the ensuing decades of Assad’s rule.
The regime’s behavior since the uprising a decade ago has included systematic violations of human rights; war crimes and crimes against humanity; the killing of unarmed men, women and children in the hundreds of thousands; the use of chemical weapons, barrel bombs and the shelling of civilian markets; severe torture; forced disappearance, imprisonment and the displacement of millions, both as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP). Syria’s civil strife, seen on such a large scale in only a few countries in modern history, created significant turmoil in the nation and caused massive insecurity beyond its borders. That instability also created the political vacuum in which the Islamic State found the comfort and confidence to challenge American and Western interests.
Based on our principles and ongoing engagement with actors on the ground in Syria and neighboring countries we ask the following:
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to become actively committed to a political transition in Syria as defined by the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council in its June 30, 2012 Final Communique of the Action Group on Syria, and as confirmed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015). The United States supported both U.N. initiatives. U.N. Resolution 2254 calls for a transitional government in Syria that has full authority to take control of Syrian rule during the preparation of national elections in the country without Assad. Following the implementation of UNCR 2254, C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to work with the international community to devise and implement a plan for Syria’s reconstruction.
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to support and facilitate the development of local and regional governance structures in any and all areas of Syria that are relatively safe, secure and free of human rights abuses. Our recommendation includes areas in Northwest, Southwest and Southeast Syria for this purpose. These governance initiatives, backed by the U.S. government and allies of the United States, will demonstrate to all Syrians how American-led, international-backed support can allow Syrians to begin trusting and relying upon Syrian institutions to provide basic services to the general population. This American initiative should be accompanied by an affirmation in a unified Syria in the immediate term and during a political transition as mandated by the U.N. Security Council.
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to sustain the generosity of the American people by continuing to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Syrians – including refugees and internally displaced persons, in need of help. Such assistance should (in conjunction with partners) be extended to all Syrians in need regardless of where they currently reside. In regime-controlled areas, however, the regime and its entourage must be denied the ability to profit monetarily from assistance activities, as it has done repeatedly in cases of aid provided by the United Nations.
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration and its partners to plan openly for Syria’s political and economic reconstruction, but to oppose any role for the Assad regime in receiving or managing reconstruction funding. The regime is larcenous and incompetent. Genuine reconstruction, except in areas beyond the regime’s control, cannot commence until a transitional governing body, as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2254, is in place.
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to take the diplomatic lead in the international community to ensure the full accountability of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the course of the Syrian conflict irrespective of the perpetrators. C4SSA calls on the Department of State to establish a new Office for Syrian Accountability with the responsibility of gathering and safeguarding evidence to be used in prosecutions against war criminals in Syria.
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to place credible pressure on Assad and his security and intelligence establishment whom perpetrated atrocities and crimes against humanity in Syria. The implementation and strengthening of Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (2019) sanctions as well as the pursuit of arrests and trials of senior Assad officials and enablers in international courts will continue to shake up the regime’s foundation and hasten its demise.
- C4SSA calls on the Biden administration to push back on and counter both Russian and Iranian influence in Syria. Russia and Iran must not be allowed to continue propping up President Assad and providing him with the means to remain in power. Syria must be on the American agenda when the administration communicates bilaterally with Russia and Iran.
- C4SSA supports the congressionally established Syria Study Group Final Report and calls on the Administration to consider its conclusions as it develops its Syria policy.