March 17, 2013 | Press Release

FDD Praises Congressman Engel’s Leadership on Syria


Madeleine Levey Lambert
[email protected]

Washington, DC — On the two-year anniversary of the crisis in Syria, Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the Free Syria Act (FSA) of 2013. FDD praises the legislation as the most comprehensive congressional bill to date addressing Assad’s assault on his population.

If passed, the legislation will authorize the Obama administration to provide humanitarian and economic aid to Syrian refugees and other vulnerable populations affected by the conflict, give restricted military assistance to vetted Syrian opposition groups which are fighting against the regime and have renounced terrorist influences, and work alongside those opposition groups to plan and prepare for the transition to post-Assad rule.

The bill envisions a society in which Syria’s leaders are committed to the equality of all the country’s citizens. It also seeks to curb the influence of regional players such as Iran, which uses Syria as a conduit through which to arm its Hezbollah proxy.

Providing lethal and non-lethal military assistance and training to vetted Syrian opposition forces could change the current dangerous dynamic: an Assad regime supported by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, on the one hand, and a radical Islamist opposition armed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, on the other. Meanwhile, the moderate opposition, having received little support, has weakened. 

The goal at this point: an end to Assad’s rule, an end to the Syrian WMD threat, the eradication of terrorist elements in the country such as Hezbollah and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the formation of a new government in Damascus that will respect human rights, counter extremism and live at peace with its neighbors.

If these conditions are met, the Free Syria Act authorizes the President to suspend sanctions against Syria.

The legislation also calls for the US to work with Syrian opposition-allied local coordination committees to provide them with the resources they need to administer services to their communities.

John Hannah, an FDD senior fellow who served in high-ranking national security positions in three administrations, both Democratic and Republican, praised the bill and remarked that, “one can only hope that Representative Engel’s outstanding leadership might finally spur the administration as well as Congress to realize that, as difficult as the situation in Syria has become, doing nothing poses the greatest risks of all to the interests of the United States and its allies by surrendering the fate of this vital region to Assad’s killing machine, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah proxy, and the black flag of Al Qaeda.”

Mark Dubowitz, FDD executive director who leads the Foundation's projects on sanctions and nonproliferation, said that “Representative Engel has been warning for years of the dangers of the Assad regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies. His 2003 Syria Accountability and Lebanon Sovereignty Restoration Act was seminal in beginning the process of isolating Assad.” Dubowitz recommended that “the final legislation should also include sanctions measures that target the Assad regime's overseas assets, and those foreign persons who continue to support this murderous regime as well as their terrorist opponents. We have not done nearly enough to use the sanctions tools being applied against the Iranian regime's nuclear program to punish Tehran and all those who are supporting extremist forces in Syria.”

For more information or to speak with FDD experts, please contact Madeleine Levey Lambert at [email protected] or 202-403-2941.