Blumenthal, Ayotte, Cornyn, Casey Introduce Bill To Update, Enhance Existing Sanctions Against Syrian Regime

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), joined by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), introduced the Syria Sanctions Enhancement Act of 2013, legislation that would update and enhance existing sanctions against the Syrian regime to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the civil war. The legislation will update existing sanctions to reflect the reality that the Syrian regime continues its persistent war crimes.

Blumenthal said, “The Syria Sanctions Enhancement Act looks at all the perpetrators of horrific violence who empower these terrorists and creates sanctions against them. Anyone who helps Assad and the Syrian regime develop weapons of mass destruction or provides them with conventional weapons is responsible for the majority of killings in Syria. They are complicit knowingly, purposefully.”

Cornyn said, “At the hands of the brutal Assad regime, the Syrian people continue to suffer violent war crimes and violations of their basic human rights, enabled by outside entities from Russia and elsewhere.  I join with my colleagues in offering bipartisan sanctions to strengthen protections for the Syrian people and pressure the Assad regime to end these atrocities.”

Casey said, “The Assad regime has wrought terrible violence against the Syrian people, and this bill makes clear that the United States should not do business with individuals and entities that continue to support his tyrannical rule.   During the more than two years since this conflict began, I have consistently pressed for a more robust U.S. response, including through efforts like these expanded sanctions, because I strongly believe that it is in our national security interest to have a stable, peaceful Syria and that we do not embolden the Iranian regime and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”

The Syria sanctions program implemented by the Office of Foreign Assets Control began in 2004 when Executive Order 13338 was issued to deal with the Government of Syria’s policies in supporting terrorism, continuing its occupation of Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts to stabilize Iraq. Following events in Syria beginning in March 2011, subsequent Executive orders have been issued in response to the ongoing violence and human rights abuses taking place in Syria. 

The Syria Sanctions Expansion Act codifies these sanctions to ensure that they address the ongoing human rights violations in Syria, the arming and financing of the Syrian regime, and the training of its military forces. The bill would also prohibit entities that provide arms to the Syrian regime from having procurement contracts with the U.S. government, end transactions between the U.S. and foreign financial institutions (i.e. Russian Banks) providing support to the Syrian regime, and require a full accounting of Assad’s assets.

The Syria Sanctions Expansion Act builds upon S. Res. 428, a bipartisan resolution led by Blumenthal that urges the U.S. to develop a policy to address crimes against humanity in Syria. The bill also builds on a more recent letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urging the agency to sanction Russian banks financing the Syrian regime, which was also led by Blumenthal.