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Washington, D.C. — Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia Chairman Joe Wilson (R-SC), and Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN) led the introduction of legislation to prohibit the Biden administration from extending or reissuing Syria General License 23, which authorized direct transactions with the Assad regime for 180 days after the February Turkey–Syria earthquake.

“Bashar Al-Assad is a war criminal who has faced no accountability for his crimes against the Syrian people. Yet he is increasingly being welcomed back into the international community, particularly by governments in the Middle East,” said Chairman McCaul. “Extending General License 23 would undermine our Syria sanctions and send a message that the United States accepts normalization with Assad. That’s why we’re introducing this bill to block the extension of this over-broad license, especially since our Syria sanctions already contain humanitarian exemptions.” 

“For far too long, the Biden administration’s soft-on-crime foreign policies have had wide-reaching and devastating international effects that have weakened the United States’ standing on the global stage,” said Rep. Baird. “By extending General License 23, the administration is effectively refusing to hold Bashar Al-Assad accountable for his unspeakable war crimes and sends a dangerous message to the world that the United States condones this humanitarian crisis. As the world’s leader, we have a responsibility to send a resounding message to all that this despicable conduct will not be tolerated, which is why I am introducing a bill to block this extension.”

“The criminal Assad regime has directly benefitted from General License 23 while refusing aid to areas hit hardest by the earthquake,” said Chairman Wilson. In fact, mass murderer Assad and war criminal Putin have relentlessly bombed northwest Syria since the earthquake. Humanitarian exemptions are built into U.S. sanctions, and the Biden administration should not renew this broad license which allows the Assad regime to profit as he continues his assault on the Syrian people.”


On February 9, 2023, in response to the February 6th Turkey-Syria earthquake, the Biden administration issued Syria General License 23 (GL23) exempting a broad range of direct transactions with the Assad regime from sanctions for 180 days. This needlessly broad license has enabled malign actors like Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to manipulate the earthquake response for personal and political gain, at the expense of U.S. national security. 

The general license is set to expire August 8th. Any effort to extend or reissue GL23 sends the wrong message to our partners and allies seeking to normalize Assad and threatens to undermine the efficacy of our sanctions regime — a critical tool for accountability. 

 The Safeguarding Syrian Sanction Act would:

  1. Prevent the administration from renewing or extending GL23, or issuing any other Syria general license specific to the February earthquake.
  2. Require that the Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Commerce notify the appropriate committees of any change to Syria Sanctions Regulations no more than 15 days prior to the change taking effect.

**This bill would have no effect on General Licenses in effect prior to the February earthquake or future license unrelated to earthquake relief efforts **

The full text of the bill can be found here.