Two prominent Republican lawmakers introduced fresh legislation, advocating for increased diplomatic and economic isolation measures against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its supporters.
Senators Jim Risch and Marco Rubio put forth the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act, which looks to extend and strengthen the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act.
The Caesar Act law, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2020, prevents countries and international companies from doing business with the Assad regime.
The new legislation looks to extend the act until 2032 and would prohibit any US department or agency from recognizing or normalizing with any government in Syria led by al-Assad. Risch and Rubio also hope to see sanctions expanded to include the Syrian People’s Assembly and senior officials of the Arab Socialist Baath Party in Syria.
A determination would also be made whether Asma al-Assad’s charity, the Syria Trust for Development, meets the criteria for sanctions under the Caesar Act. Asma is Bashar’s wife, and she has been sanctioned by the US already for corruption and for “spearheading efforts” on behalf of the regime to consolidate economic and political power.
Risch and Rubio have also called for more accurate reporting on UN aid that may be diverted to benefit the Assad regime, including through currency manipulation.
“Bashar al Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian backers, has committed unspeakable atrocities against the Syrian people, including the use of chemical weapons against unarmed civilians, torture, forced disappearance, and starvation as a weapon of war,” said Risch, the top Republican lawmaker on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Risch also called out the “wave of efforts” to normalize with the Assad regime following the Arab League decision to readmit Damascus.
The senators have included a provision that requires Congress to be informed of any meetings between Syria and Arab countries, including Turkey, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, or Lebanon.
Despite that move by the Arab League, which has been seen as an effort to bring the Assad regime closer to Arab states and away from Iran, Western economic sanctions have so far prevented economic ties from materializing.
Risch said the legislation enforces a policy of diplomatic and economic isolation against the Assad regime and its enablers and “sends a strong signal that we will continue to seek accountability for all atrocities.”
Rubio said the US must limit any sort of normalization with the Assad regime. “There is no reason why our nation should grant this bloody dictatorship international legitimacy,” he said.
The US has stressed to Arab countries engaging with the Syrian regime that credible steps to improve Syrians’ humanitarian and security situation should be front and center in any engagement, officials have said.