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UI Center for Human Rights hosts Syria forum

BY JULIA DAVIS | SEPTEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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The situation regarding U.S. military intervention in Syria has been developing and changing by the minute over the past few weeks.

To combat the confusion surrounding the conflict, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights hosted a forum featuring a panel of UI faculty and local community members, and a plethora of opinions were expressed.

“We had a variety of perspectives presented and group discussion among the people in the room, and so we hope that [the event] was very educational for people,” said Adrien Wing, the director of the center.

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach moderated the event and emphasized hearing a wide variety of opinions from all panelists.

“I think everyone recognizes that there’s a pro and a con to almost everything and that there are people that are divided, and virtually all thinking people are somewhat conflicted in their judgment,” he said.

The panel focused on educating the public through discussions concerning the legal, political, and moral dimensions of military intervention, as well as the potential effect the intervention could have on the rest of the Middle East.

The discussion centered on the recent development of a Russian plan to put the Syrian regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons under international control, which led President Obama to put military action against Syria on hold in favor of diplomacy.

Many panelists expressed their opinions in favor of international action towards the Bashar al-Assad regime.

“I think that we have a number of international norms that should be upheld in Syria, including the international norm against genocide and killing your own people,” said Stanley Foundation CEO Keith Porter. “And I’m a bit confused that we have chosen to prioritize the international norm against chemical weapons above a longtime ban on killing your own people that has clearly been happening in Syria.”

Fellow panelist and Syrian-American Newman Abuissa expressed similar sentiments.

The chief argument against international action came from assistant director of the Center for Human Rights Nathan Miller.

“The charter of the United Nations expressly prohibits the use of force by one country against another country except in two very limited circumstances,” he said. “The first is self-defense, and the second is if the use of force is authorized by the security counsel, and neither of those situations apply in the current circumstances.”

After the panelists shared their opinions, the floor was open for public questions and debate, which Leach said he thought created a lively and interesting community discussion.

“I believe that the panel laid out a variety of views, and that we had an enriching public discussion with an exceptionally well-educated, highly concerned audience,” Leach said.


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