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Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), author of the bill that created the Iraq Study Group in 2006, petitioned the president on Monday to immediately establish the Syria Advisory Group, which he said could help the administration make diplomatic overtures across the region.
“I do not pretend to think that a Syria Advisory Group is the key to a just and lasting peace in a land where much blood has been spilt,” Wolf wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama. “But I see little downside in enlisting their aid and venture that a war-weary nation would embrace such an approach.”
Wolf recommended that the advisory group include “Secretaries of State Jim Baker and Madeleine Albright, former Ambassadors Edward Djerejian, Theodore Kattouf and Ryan Crocker and Generals John Abizaid, Anthony Zinni and David Barno.”
The Syria Advisory Group, like the Iraq Advisory Group before it, would make policy proposals and diplomatic overtures to various leaders in and around Syria.
“The group could be used as strategic envoys and negotiators in Damascus and elsewhere and would provide a dual-track approach to what the Obama Administration pursues,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.
The diplomats could “provide consultation to yourself and senior members of your administration,” Wolf wrote in his letter to Obama.
Wolf went on to say that he is not convinced that a U.S.-led strike in Syria is the best course of action.
The lawmaker “remains deeply concerned about any U.S. military action in Syria and, if a vote were held today, he would vote against a strike,” his office said. “He raised concern about whether such a move would empower radical Al-Qaeda connected jihadists and if a U.S. strike would result in a retaliatory strike on the United States or American interests abroad.”
Wolf cautioned the administration, saying in his letter that U.S. action in Syria will fundamentally alter the region, and not necessarily in a positive way.
“The war in Syria cannot be understood outside of the broader context of regional sectarian violence,” Wolf wrote to Obama. “ Whatever happens in Syria will have a direct impact on the Sunni-Shia [religious] divide, the future of Christians and other ancient religious minorities who are increasingly imperiled in that part of the world, the stability of strategic neighbors, including Lebanon and Jordan, and the fate of our critical ally Israel.”
“Furthermore, it is safe to assume that the Iranian regime and terrorist elements throughout the region that have clearly stated murderous aims are carefully watching as events unfold,” Wolf wrote.
The lawmaker went on to warn that U.S. military action may end up benefiting al Qaeda and other affiliated terror groups.
“I remain concerned that any U.S. military action could embolden—and even strategically aid—the radical Al Qaeda-connected jihadist element that is increasingly present among the legitimate Syrian opposition,” Wolf wrote.
The goal of the Syria Advisory Group would be to promote a diplomatic, rather than military solution in Syria.
“Ultimately the aim of these diplomatic overtures would be to bring the relevant parties to the table in Geneva,” Wolf wrote. “Convening the Syria Advisory Group would not slow the pace of congressional consideration of military action; this would be a dual-track approach over the next two weeks until Congress votes on the resolution.”