A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House have introduced a bill aimed to combat Syria’s normalization with regional countries that would expand sanctions and prohibit the US from establishing diplomatic ties with the government of Bashar al-Assad.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and several other members of the House. The legislation comes as a response to Syria being readmitted to the Arab League, which has enraged US officials who want to keep Syria isolated.
"The United States must use all of our leverage to stop normalization with Assad. I am proud to join my colleagues in mandating further sanctions against any form of investment in territory under the control of the Assad regime, as we remain committed to ensuring the Syrian people receive justice," McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement on the bill.
The bill seeks to expand the Caesar Act, which the US used to impose crippling economic sanctions on Syria in 2020 that are designed to prevent the country’s reconstruction. The sanctions have had a devastating impact on Syria’s civilian population, and the House recently voted overwhelmingly to keep enforcing them following an earthquake that killed thousands of Syrians.
According to a summary of the bill, the legislation would "expand the Caesar Act by plugging loopholes in the original bill which made it hard to enforce."
The bill would "clarify the applicability of current sanctions to Syrian regime airlines, and to energy transactions – sending a clear sign to countries normalizing with Assad which are considering allowing Syrian regime airlines to land in their airports."
The legislation would require "an annual strategy for five years to counter normalization with the Assad regime by countries which have taken steps to normalize with the Assad regime." It would prohibit any US federal agencies from "recognizing or normalizing with any government in Syria led by Bashar al-Assad."
Arab League readmits Syria— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) May 7, 2023
1. Refugee return / jump-starting the Syrian economy
2. Captagon drug trade
3. Reducing foreign occupation & influence in Syria
Immediate effects will be few b/c of US & EU sanctionshttps://t.co/Ml6JbhfWwy via @AlMonitor
Despite Washington’s hardline position on normalization, regional countries are still following through with their plans. On Tuesday, Syria and Saudi Arabia said they were resuming diplomatic ties for the first time in over 10 years. The following day, Saudi King Salman invited Assad to attend an Arab League summit in Jeddah later this month.