US lawmakers introduced a bill against normalizing relations with the current Syrian regime. 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 US Caesar Act, which imposes a set of strict sanctions on Syria since 2020. The proposed legislation comes after the Arab countries turned the page of confrontation last Sunday. Years continued with Assad allowing Syria to return to its seat in the League of Arab States.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill aimed at preventing the US government from recognizing Bashar al-Assad as president of Syria and strengthening Washington’s ability to impose sanctions, in a warning to other countries normalizing 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 US Caesar Act, which imposes a set of strict sanctions on Syria since 2020.
The proposed legislation comes after Arab states on Sunday turned the page on years of confrontation with Assad by allowing Syria to return to its seat in the Arab League, a significant juncture on the road to its reintegration into the region even as the West continues to shun it after years of civil war.
Countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others, have supported 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. Cooling relations with Assad began to melt more quickly after the devastating earthquakes that rocked Syria and Turkey in February.
“Countries that choose to normalize relations with mass murderer without remorse and drug dealer Bashar al-Assad are going in the wrong direction,” said US Representative Joe Wilson, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, in a statement.
The bill was introduced by Wilson and Chairman of the Republican House Committee on Foreign Affairs Michael McCaul, Republican French Hill and Democrat Brendan Boyle, who co-chair the Free, Democratic and Stable Syria Caucus, and others.
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 said that “returning Syria to the Arab League infuriated members of Congress, and revealed the need to move quickly to send a signal.”
He added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was consulted in drafting the bill.
Asked about the measure at a regular press briefing, Vedant Patil, deputy spokesperson for the Foreign Office, declined to comment on the legislation. But he said Washington has been very clear that it does not seek to restore 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.
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 said.
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.