Senator Lieberman on Syria: 'It's Time for the Administration to Act'

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, who previously supported the 2003 liberation of Iraq, told CNN on Sunday that it’s time for the president to take action to help Syrian freedom fighters liberate their country from the tyranny of Ba’athist Party President Bashar al Assad.

His comments come in the wake of the United Nations Security Council vetoing a resolution that would mandate the Assad regime stop attacks on activists calling for democratic reform.

“Every option is on the table except doing nothing because doing nothing means hundreds of Syrians get killed,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. I think it’s time for the administration to act.

Lieberman says that in this instance the United States has strong credibility to arm Syrian rebels because the West has the backing of the Arab League:

Here they’re putting themselves on the side of freedom and against dictatorship, and It does as you say give us the credibility that it’s not just the West coming in, it’s the Arab League, the Gulf countries, etc. but we’ve got to do more than just begin to talk to the opposition in Syria because the reality on the ground is since the U.N. resolution was vetoed… the Assad government has begun to kill people with increasing frequency, hundreds since then.

So, I think it’s time to help the brave Syrian freedom fighters to carry out a fair fight and I think it’s time to give them help, medical help first, and then I’d give them training, I’d give them communications equipment and then ultimately I’d give them weapons… I think this has to be part of an international coalition… since then the Russians and Chinese have vetoed U.N. action we have to form a coalition of the willing and that will include the Arab League and the Gulf countries and Turkey.

Lieberman believes that the U.S. has a strategic interest in liberating Syria because they are the only regional ally of Iran, and that the Pentagon can limit the risks of losing American lives:

I think we can limit the risk. I would never put American troops on the ground, I don’t think any of the other countries want their troops on the ground. The fact is the Syrian people are forming the same kind of militias that the Libyan people formed that ultimately with our help brought down Gadaffi. If Assad falls in Syria it is a great moral and democratic victory for the people of Syria, but it is also a tremendous strategic defeat for Iran, which is our enemy. I think that our strategic interest in assisting the people of Syria overthrow Assad is greater than our interests in what we did in Libya.

We went into Libya for humanitarian, moral reasons, we did the right thing–we’re always better when we do that, we did it with a lot of assistance from the Arab world and from our allies in Europe, but Iran is the greatest threat to security in the Middle East and the world today. The biggest state sponsor of terrorism, its only ally in the Arab world is Syria. If Assad is thrown over by his own people it will be a tremendous strategic setback for Iran and a great victory for the rest of the people in the Middle East and for us as well because obviously, Iran is our sworn enemy…

Lieberman added that that although the administration has not made any move to push forward the liberation of Syria, “The encouraging news is that the Pentagon is putting together plans to make that happen if the president decides to order it… We always use the phrase in regard to Iran that every option is on the table. In this case with I would say in regards to Syria America ought to take the position that every option is on the table except doing nothing because doing nothing means hundreds of more Syrians are killed, and it means that Iran… will achieve a strategic victory or us and all the rest of the countries in the Middle East that are their enemies.”

In his final comment he said, “I think it’s time for the administration to act.”

Lieberman who is now an independent remains the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs even though the Democratic Party controls the U.S Senate.

Lieberman lost the Democratic nomination to Ned Lamont in the summer of 2006, and lost support from top party leaders like Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean. His reasons for losing the nomination were heavily attributed to his support for President George W. Bush’s decision to liberate Iraq. Despite losing the nomination Lieberman won the general election and continued to caucus with the Democrats once he returned to the Senate.

When asked by fellow Democrats to leave the race in the wake of losing the nomination, Lieberman defended the Iraq liberation effort, “If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out [of Iraq] by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”