US lawmakers introduce bill to hold Assad government accountable and deter normalisation
US Congressmen introduced the “Assad Anti-Normalisation Act”, a bill that seeks to hold the government of Bashar al-Assad accountable for its crimes against the Syrian people, sanctioning any investment in territories controlled by the Syrian leader and deterring normalisation.
“Assad, and his Russian and Iranian backers, continue to commit horrific acts against the Syrian people and undermine regional security,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul said in a statement.
“They must be held accountable for these crimes, not welcomed back unconditionally by the international community. The United States must use all of our leverage to stop normalization with Assad.”
The bill, which was introduced on Thursday, comes just days after Arab League foreign ministers adopted a decision to readmit Syria after more than a decade of suspension.
The decision means Syria can resume its participation in Arab League meetings immediately, while calling for a resolution of the crisis resulting from Syria's civil war, including the flight of refugees to neighbouring countries and drug smuggling across the region.
The US criticised the Arab League's decision and said that Assad does not deserve normalisation after plunging the country into a brutal civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.
Qatar, an outspoken opponent of Assad, also said it would not normalise relations with the Syrian government despite its readmission to the league.
The proposed legislation was introduced by McCaul; Joe Wilson, chairman of the subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia; and Representatives French Hill; Aumua Radewagen; Carlos Gimenez; Steve Cohen; Brendan Boyle; and Vicente Gonzalez.
If passed, the legislation would require a five-year annual strategy to counter normalisation with the Assad government by countries that have "taken steps to normalise with the Assad regime". It would also prohibit any federal government agency from normalising with Assad's government.
The legislation will require an immediate review of Caesar Act sanctions for any grants of $50k or more to Syria, as well as expanding the Caesar Act.
The act targets the supporters of the Assad government in politics, business and banking. From Russia to Europe, the Gulf, Lebanon, and beyond, the sanctions may freeze assets and trigger travel bans and arrest warrants against violators.
“It has been over 12 years since the Syrian revolution against the brutal Assad regime began,” Wilson said in a statement. “Supported by war criminal Putin and the terrorist Mullahs in Tehran, over half a million people have been slaughtered by this criminal regime, and over half the Syrian population has been displaced.”
“Countries choosing to normalize with the unrepentant mass murderer and drug trafficker, Bashar al-Assad, are headed down the wrong path. The Assad regime is illegitimate and poses a threat to peace and prosperity in the region.”