A bipartisan group of US lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill that would prevent the US government from normalizing relations with Syria and enhance Washington’s ability to impose sanctions as a warning to countries that normalize relations with Assad.
The bill prevents the US federal government from recognizing any Syrian government led by Assad, who is subject to US sanctions, or normalizing relations with it. It also expands the powers of the US Caesar Act, which imposes a set of strict sanctions on Syria since 2020.
The group of sponsors of the bill was: Joe Wilson, the US Representative and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, Michael McCaul, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Republican House of Representatives, Republican French Hill and Democrat Brendan Boyle, who co-chair the Free, Democratic and Stable Syria Caucus, and others.
“Countries that choose to normalize with unrepentant mass murderer and drug dealer Bashar al-Assad are going in the wrong direction,” said Joe Wilson, the US representative and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, in a statement.
A senior congressional staffer who worked on the bill told Reuters that the bill is a warning to Turkey and Arab states that they face dire consequences if they interact with the Assad government.
The employee added that “the return of Syria to the League of Arab States raised the ire of members of Congress, and revealed the need for the need to move quickly to send a signal.”
How to face normalization with the Assad government
Vedant Patil, deputy spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, told Reuters that Washington has been very clear that it does not seek to resume relations with the Assad government, and will not support its allies and other partners in doing so either.
The provisions of the bill include a requirement that the foreign minister submit an annual strategy over 5 years that outlines how to counter normalization with the Assad government, including a list of diplomatic meetings held between the Syrian government and Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other countries.
If passed, the bill would also require a review of financial transfers, including donations of more than $50,000, from anyone in Turkey, the UAE, Egypt and a few other countries, to areas of Syria controlled by the Assad government.
The bill would also pave the way for US sanctions to be imposed on airports that allow the landing of planes by Syrian Airlines and Cham Wings Airlines, the senior congressional staffer told Reuters.
The proposed law comes after the League of Arab States made a decision on Sunday to return Syria to its seat after it was frozen for about 12 years. Countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others, have helped opponents of Assad for years, but the Syrian army, backed by Iran and Russia and their paramilitary allies, has regained control of most of the country. The cooling of relations with Assad began to fade internationally after the devastating earthquakes that rocked Syria and Turkey in February.