Menendez urges Obama to lean on Syria, allies after chemical attack

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) | Courtesy of the U.S. Senate
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on President Obama in a letter on Thursday to respond to reports of a chlorine gas attack earlier this month in Syria.

Menendez also called on Obama to lean on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime, as well as Syrian allies, including Iran and Russia.

"As the Syrian civil war enters its fifth year, I urge you to re-energize the broad international coalition that is committed to a Syria without Assad," Menendez said. " This includes exposing and targeting the tools of Russian and Iranian support for Assad’s bloody regime and working with like-minded partners to increase pressure on him and his allies."

Reports have come in from Syrian hospitals in the Idlib region and from groups such as the Syrian American Medical Society and Doctors Without Borders that on March 16, chlorine gas was unleashed on Sarmin and surrounding cities and villages from black helicopters that are believed to be from the Syrian government.

The United Nations passed a resolution that Syria's use of chlorine gas violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and that future attacks would likely bring sanctions.

"Unfortunately, it is clear that this effort has not prevented the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, nor has international pressure changed Assad’s calculus with respect to murdering his own people," Menendez said. " Worse, Assad’s supporters, including the Iranian regime, the Russian government and Hezbollah have actually increased their support for the regime, as these attacks have continued and increased in nature and scope."

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