Wolf calls for a study group on Syria

Posted: March 8, 2014

The Winchester Star

Rep. Frank R. Wolf

WASHINGTON — Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-10th, has urged President Barack Obama’s administration to set up a bipartisan Syria Study Group.

It would be similar to the Iraq Study Group (Baker-Hamilton Commission) created in 2006.

Eight other members of the House — Jim Moran, D-Va., Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., James McGovern, D-Mass., Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., Tim Griffin, R-Ark., and Chris Smith, R-N.J. — on Thursday signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry seeking support for the Atlantic Council to establish a non-governmental Syria Study Group.

The letter states that the Atlantic Council is “a non-partisan Washington, D.C.-based institution of great repute and capability” that has volunteered to facilitate the group.

“Among other things, the Atlantic Council promotes engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic Community in meeting global challenges,” the letter states. “Syria is, without doubt, a global challenge requiring the coordinated efforts of the entire Atlantic Community, as well as other nations and actors.”

Wolf said on Friday that he was unsure if the group would get a response from the administration.

“The main thing is [that] whether we hear back or not, we want them to cooperate with the Atlantic Council to do this,” he said in an interview. “This is kind of modeled after what we did with the Iraq Study Group. We came up with the idea of fresh eyes; you bring a whole new group of people to look [at the issues].”

An issue brief released this month by the council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East states that the Syrian uprising began three years ago this month, and in less than a year “had become thoroughly militarized.”

More than 140,000 people have been killed in the civil war and millions more displaced.

“Three years on, the conflict is defined by both sides’ inability to militarily bring a decisive end to the fighting; a strong consensus among opposition supporters to continue fighting until the regime [of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] is overthrown; the absence of national-scale institutions that can enforce decisions on the opposition’s behalf; the marginalization of secular civil society activists ..., the brief states.

While Wolf wrote the legislation setting up the Iraq Study Group — which led to the military surge in Iraq — no legislation would accompany a Syria Study Group, he said.

“[The Atlantic Council] just [needs] the support of the administration to say, “Yes, we’re going to cooperate, we’re going to work with you in doing this,’” Wolf said. “It’s hard to say [whether that will happen] with this administration, but why would you oppose it? It just says bring in some of the best minds that are outside the government and take a fresh approach and see what recommendations can be made.”

Wolf announced in December that he will not seek re-election this year, after 34 years in office. But he plans to continue his work supporting human and religious rights around the globe.

“We have a humanitarian abomination [in Syria] that we have not seen in a long, long while,” Wolf said. “Now, the Ukraine issue has taken it off the front pages.”

Aside from human rights abuses and religious persecution occurring in Syria, “you also have terrorist issues,” he said.

“They have probably 7,000 foreign fighters; they call them jihadis,” Wolf said. “There are 50-70 people from the United States.

“To do nothing, which is pretty much what’s being done, is just not a good idea.”

— Contact Sally Voth atsvoth@winchesterstar.com