Reid Remarks on International Discussions with Syria

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“It is right and proper that President Obama be given the opportunity to meet with Senators from both… And it is appropriate to allow international discussions aimed at avoiding this military action to continue.”

“Our credible threat of force has made these diplomatic discussions with Syria possible. The United States should not withdraw that threat.”

“The Senate should give these international discussions time to play out, but not unlimited time.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding international discussions with Syria.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

The United States Senate is engaged in an important debate – one which should not be taken lightly. This discussion and the bipartisan resolution under consideration are simply too important to be rushed through the Senate or given short shrift.

I believe it is right and proper that President Obama be given the opportunity to meet with Senators from both parties during the weekly caucus meetings. I also believe it is vital that the President speak directly to the American people about the potential for limited military action in Syria, which he will do tonight at 9 o’clock. And it is appropriate to allow international discussions aimed at avoiding this military action to continue.

It is important to understand that the only reason Russia is seeking an alternative to military action is that President Obama has made it clear that the United States will not fear to act. Our credible threat of force has made these diplomatic discussions with Syria possible. The United States should not withdraw that threat.

If there is a realistic chance to secure Syria’s chemical weapons and prevent further atrocities by the Assad regime, we should not turn our backs on that chance. But for such a solution to be plausible the Assad regime must quickly prove that their offer is real and not merely a ploy to delay military action indefinitely. Any agreement must also assure Syria’s chemical weapons can be viably secured, even in the midst of ongoing fighting. And any agreement must ensure that Syria is unable to transfer its dangerous chemical weapons to the hands of terrorist groups. Such an attempt would be met with a rapid and robust response by the United States.

I am pleased that the administration is considering this offer and determining whether the proposal can satisfy the criteria I have just outlined. The Senate should give these international discussions time to play out, but not unlimited time.

That is why, although there is support to move forward and debate the bipartisan resolution reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I did not rush to file cloture on the motion to proceed to this measure last night. As I said, we don’t need to prove how quickly we can do this, but how well we can do this.

However, the Syrian regime should fully understand that the United States is watching closely. And the Assad regime should be warned: the United States will not tolerate this breach of human decency and long-held international consensus against the use of chemical weapons.

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