In a disparate effort to keep the Syrian government isolated from its Arab neighbors, lawmakers in US Congress introduced a bill this Thursday to combat any normalization with Syria.
This Thursday evening, a group of lawmakers from both parties in the US Congress introduced a bill aimed at banning the American government from recognizing Bashar al-Assad as Syria’s president.
The bill was proposed at the same time as Syria is moving quite fast in normalizing ties with its Arab neighbors after more than a decade. It was on this Sunday, that the Arab League member states issued a statement, allowing Syria back into the League, a milestone in Assad’s regional rehabilitation since the civil war started in his country back in 2011.
The bill, first reported by Reuters, also called for increasing Washington’s ability to impose even more unilateral sanctions on the Syrian government, a clear warning to the states in Middle East that decided to restore ties with Assad.
More precisely, the bill would pave the way for imposing more crippling sanctions on Syria’s airports that allow landings by Syrian Arab Airlines and another carrier. If passed, the legislation would also require a review of transactions, including donations over $50,000 in areas of Syria held by Assad’s government by anyone in Turkey, the UAE, Egypt and several other countries.
Immediately after the civil war erupted in Syria back in 2011, a number of regional countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others, openly opposed Assad and supported anti-governmental rebels in the Arab country. However, it was the Syria’s army, backed by Iran, Russia and allied paramilitary groups, that could finally get things under control and regain most of the country.
“Countries choosing to normalize with (the) unrepentant mass murderer and drug trafficker, Bashar al-Assad, are headed down the wrong path,” U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, the chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, said in a statement this Thursday.
In addition to Wilson, other lawmakers who first proposed the bill were House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Republican French Hill and Democrat Brendan Boyle, who co-chair the Free, Democratic and Stable Syria Caucus; and a number of other lawmakers from both parties.
Thursday’s bill, a warning for Arab states!
As pointed out above, the legislation is in fact a warning sign for regional countries, especially Turkey and Arab states neighboring Syria, that if they choose to recognize Assad’s government, then they will have to face its consequences.
“The readmission of Syria to the Arab League really infuriated (Congress) members and made clear the need to quickly act to send a signal,” said Cham Wings, a senior congressional staffer who worked on the bill.
Speaking to Reuters on the matter, Wings also added that the State Department was consulted in the drafting of the bill, and that the bill’s provisions include “a requirement that the secretary of state provide Congress with a strategy for countering normalization with Assad’s government – including a list of diplomatic meetings between Syria’s government and Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and others – every year for five years”. But regardless of US concerns, no regional country has reacted to the bill yet.
Tensions between US and Arab states have sparked unprecedentedly, especially after the breakout of the war between Russia and Ukraine in February 2022. Back then, and due to the effects of the war on global energy market, Saudi Arabia and the UAE decided to adopt oil policies that led to the rise of oil price, a move that did not please the US government.