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Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia Chairman Joe Wilson (R-SC), along with Rep. French Hill (R-AR), Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-FL), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), and Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) introduced the Assad Anti-Normalization Act to hold the Assad regime, and its backers, accountable for their crimes against the Syrian people and deter normalization with the Assad regime.

“Assad, and his Russian and Iranian backers, continue to commit horrific acts against the Syrian people and undermine regional security,” said Chairman McCaul. “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. I am proud to join my colleagues in mandating further sanctions against any form of investment in territory under the control of the Assad regime, as we remain committed to ensuring the Syrian people receive justice.”

“It has been over 12 years since the Syrian revolution against the brutal Assad regime began,” said Rep. Wilson. “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. Support for a free and democratic Syria remains strong and I am grateful to introduce this bipartisan legislation to hold the Assad regime accountable for its crimes.”

“Syria’s readmittance to the Arab League signals to Assad that his barbaric behavior is acceptable –these steps towards normalization are reckless,” said Rep. Hill. “The Arab League’s recognition should not deter the U.S. government from its obligation to sanction Assad in our efforts to dismantle the trafficking and production of Captagon and hold him accountable for his egregious war crimes.” 

“Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal whose ongoing atrocities should be condemned, not normalized,” said Rep. Cohen. “I am disappointed in the Arab League’s decision to recognize his barbarous regime. The Syrian people have suffered enough and deserve new leadership.” 

“The United States and our allies have stood together in opposing Bashar al-Assad’s barbaric regime for more than a decade now,” said Rep. Boyle. “If countries in the region are ready to look past the numerous documented criminal acts that were committed in Syria, then the United States must set the example and use its diplomatic strength to counter these misguided steps. Assad and his backers in Russia and Iran have not shown any reason that would justify normalizing relations with a government that is responsible for over 600,000 men, women, and children being murdered. This legislation is a great next step of making the position of Congress clear.”

“President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has led to the mass murder and displacement of its citizens,” said Rep. Gonzalez. “Normalization of relations with Syria will only legitimize his regime’s heinous acts. I am proud to join Congressman Wilson to introduce the Assad Anti-Normalization Act, which condemns the normalization of relations with Bashar al-Assad and imposes sanctions on those who support him.”

     Specifically, this legislation would: 

  1. Require an annual strategy for five years to counter normalization with the Assad regime by countries which have taken steps to normalize with the Assad regime.
  2. Prohibit any federal government department or agency from recognizing or normalizing with any government in Syria led by Bashar al-Assad.
  3. Require an immediate review for Caesar Act sanctions for any grants of $50,000 or more to Syria.
  4. Require a report into the United Nations assistance that has gone to Syria which has gone to the benefit of the Assad regime.
  5. Expand the Caesar Act by plugging loopholes in the original bill which made it hard to enforce. It would also expand Caesar Act sanctions to those involved in diverting and stealing humanitarian assistance meant for the people of Syria and those involved in stealing the property of the Syrian people for political reasons or personal gain.
  6. Sanction the members of Syria’s People’s Assembly and their immediate family members, as well as those who provide them with support, along with senior officials of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Syria.
  7. Clarify the applicability of current sanctions to Syrian regime airlines, and to energy transactions – sending a clear sign to countries normalizing with Assad which are considering allowing Syrian regime airlines to land in their airports.
  8. Determine whether or not Asma al-Assad’s charity the Syria Trust for Development meets the criteria for sanctions under the Caesar Act.
  9. Allow the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to request review of any names for Caesar Act sanctions which the President would be required to consider within 30 days.

“This bill will pressure the Assad regime to account for its mass murder and other war crimes including chemical weapons, and will advance the fight against ISIS, support return of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), and block a geostrategic triumph by Assad, Putin and the IRGC,” said former Ambassador and Special Representative to Syria, James Jeffrey.

“This bipartisan bill makes crystal clear that Congress is as committed as ever to enforcing the Caesar Act, holding Assad accountable for his war crimes and other atrocities, and actively opposing the attempt to normalize the Assad regime,” said former Special Envoy to Syria, Joel Rayburn.

“How the U.S. responds to Assad’s continuing war crimes and atrocities matters,” said FDD Action. “It will impact regional stability, US credibility, and our national security interests in the Middle East and in many other regions. The stakes are high. This critical, bipartisan bill not only reinforces existing legislatively-mandated Syria sanctions but makes it U.S. policy to neither recognize nor normalize relations with the Assad regime. Congress is rightly saying: normalizing war criminals and those individuals and entities who help them will not happen on our watch.” 

The Representatives are grateful for the input and support of this legislation by the American Center for Levant Studies (ACLS), Americans for a Free Syria, Citizens for a Safe and Secure America, Foundation for Defense of Democracy (FDD) Action, Multifaith Alliance, Pro Justice, Syria Faith Initiative, Syrian American Council, Syrian Christian USA, Syrian Forum USA, Syrian Humanitarian Institute for National Empowerment (SHINE), and the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

A copy of the legislation can be found at this link.