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(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) returned to Washington today to be briefed by top administration officials on the situation in Syria where the Assad regime has ignored international prohibitions against the use of weapons of mass destruction and used chemical weapons on the people of Syria. This afternoon, Senator Shaheen attended a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey all testified on the potential use of force in Syria. Previously, Shaheen has expressed concerns about the use of the chemical weapons by the Assad regime and the implications for our national security interests. 

“If we stand quietly aside while Assad uses chemical weapons, we will seriously hurt our own national security interests and signal to other tyrannical regimes around the world, like Iran and North Korea, that they can use weapons of mass destruction without consequence,” said Shaheen. “The question now, however, is how we respond.  We must determine the best way to make clear that it is unacceptable to use weapons of mass destruction while also protecting our country from becoming mired in a civil war.”

Senator Shaheen has been a leader in the effort to reduce the threat of WMDs throughout her career in the senate.  She strongly supported the ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and has since introduced the Next Generation Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 2013, which will address the increasing threat of chemical weapons and WMDs in the Middle East and North Africa.  Since the Syrian conflict began, Shaheen has also called for action to ensure the safety of Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles. In early 2012, she signed a letter to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta requesting that plans be in place to ensure the security of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles as well as conventional weapons such as shoulder-mounted man-portable air defense systems. Shaheen has continued to raise these concerns in both the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

On Wednesday, Senator Shaheen will attend additional briefings on the crisis in Syria and potential U.S. responses.