My wife Sanaa is from Syria. Her family, most of whom are who are Alawite farmers, still lives there. As a former U.S. senator of Middle Eastern descent, I oppose any kind of U.S. attack on Syria and hope that Congress does too in its upcoming vote on the matter.

As we’re now witnessing, diplomacy is much more humane than killing civilians over unproven claims attributed to Syria’s leaders.

U.S. armed intervention in that country would be wrong, both morally and politically. And President Barack Obama’s rationale for bombing Syria is flawed.

abourezk-syria-IHH Insani Yardim Vakfi/TURKEY/Flickr

IHH Insani Yardim Vakfi/TURKEY/Flickr

That red line on chemical weapons that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad of Syria has crossed? Obama was the one who established it, not Congress. Under our Constitution, our lawmakers bear the sole power to declare war. It would be an illegal war.

Then there’s the potential for embarrassment. What would the cost be in terms of Syrian lives and American taxpayers’ money? It isn’t worth it.

Obama announced that he wasn’t trying to target Assad, nor the chemical stockpiles, but only those sites that enable him to use chemical weapons. It’s probably no secret to Obama that there are millions of innocent Syrian civilians living in Damascus whose lives would be endangered by the cruise missiles he plans to send there. Many of those living under the expected targets, including some of my own friends, aren’t fans of Assad.

Even with a “targeted” strike, we’d be conducting war against a sovereign nation, a nation which has allies. What if Syria or its allies decided to retaliate for such an attack? Would Secretary of State John Kerry’s “no boots on the ground” pledge still hold if we or our forces were attacked? Would we then feel the need to re-retaliate, pulling us into another wasteful Middle East war?

Syria has never threatened the United States. That makes Obama’s threats themselves an act of aggression on our part.

During one of my meetings with Assad in his office a few years ago, he told me of his intelligence services uncovering a plot against U.S. interests in the Middle East. He turned over that information to our government, which was able to dismantle the threat.

After hearing this, I contacted the U.S. ambassador to Syria. “Not only was that true,” the ambassador told me, “but he has helped us stop more than one threat against our interests.” Obama’s reaction proves what Gore Vidal was fond of saying, that “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Obama should heed public opinion polls. Again and again, these surveys are demonstrating strong bipartisan support for staying out of Syria. The American people don’t want another Middle East war.

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Jim Abourezk

James Abourezk of Sioux Falls is a former U.S. senator from South Dakota.

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