Syrian Opposition Leaders Interested in Making Case Before Congress

The Syrian National Coalition President Ahmed Assi al Jarba and Free Syrian Army General Salim Idris would "be happy to be here"

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Bassam Khabieh / Reuters

A man holds the body of a dead child among bodies of people activists say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region, in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013.

Updated on September 9

Top officials from the Syrian opposition coalition are interested in coming to the United States and speaking with Congress, Mohammed Ghanem, Director of Government Relations for the Syrian American Council, said Friday at the National Press Club.

“We think this would make an impact,” Ghanem said. “We call on the Administration to extend an invitation to them so they can come here and make a compelling and persuasive case to members of the House and the Senate.” The Syrian National Coalition President Ahmed Assi al Jarba and Free Syrian Army General Salim Idris would “be happy to be here” at the White House’s invitation, Ghanem added.

The Syrian American Council, an advocacy organization of Syrian-Americans, supports a vigorous U.S. military response to turn the civil war in the opposition’s favor. It largely favors the Senate resolution passed Wednesday, including surgical strikes on military targets, lethal and non-lethal aid to the moderates in the opposition, and efforts to degrade Syrian President Bashar Assad’s capability to use chemical weapons. “We’re hoping that this will be sufficient pressure to bring Assad to the negotiating table,” says Ghanem. “Now do I know for sure that Assad won’t be another Qaddafi and decide to fight until the bitter end? No. And to be honest with you I have no faith in him.”

The event also set up via Skype contact with a Syrian doctor who served patients suffering from the chemical attack the Obama administration claims Assad launched on August 21. Dr. Sakhr al-Dimashqy, the President of the Unified Medical Center in East Ghouta, said he was “shocked” to see hundred of patients, “men and women of all ages,” exhibiting symptoms such as pin-point pupils, blurred vision, hysteria, and foaming at the mouth and nose.

“The total number of cases that medical points and field hospitals had received was about 10,000,” Dr. al-Dimashqy said through an interpreter, saying that he helped document 165 deaths, out of around 1,400 total. “I will never be able to erase the memory, the scene of the children lying lifeless on the floor. Just a few hours before, they were having dreams about bread and about toys.”

“We’re not calling on the international community to help us with medical supplies to treat future cases, we’re calling on the international community to make sure that there will be no such future cases,” added Dr. al-Dimashqy. “Stop the monster.”

UPDATE: A Syrian opposition activist in Washington tells TIME:

There’s a lot of disappointment among opposition activists in Washington and around the country. That President al Jarba and General Idris are not able to come and make the case to Congress directly…My guess is that they’re [the Administration] worried that the focus will shift from national security grounds for the rationale [to attack], American credibility and leadership, to “Who are these guys?” Subjecting them to intense media scrutiny, and the potential for “gotcha” moments, is probably not in the best interests of getting this vote passed. And to be honest with you, I kind of agree…Neither of them are longtime professional politicians who are sophisticated, seasoned operatives who have been through stuff like this before. They’re both modest, humble, pretty new in these roles. They could be eaten up alive if they came to the U.S.