March 21, 2013 | Press Release

FDD Applauds Bipartisan Syria Legislation


Washington, DC — During the week marking the two year anniversary of the crisis in Syria, Congress introduced two bills that could potentially change the situation on the ground: The Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013 and the Free Syria Act of 2013. FDD welcomes these measures as an important step in what will no doubt be a difficult road to end the violence in Syria and usher in a government in Damascus that is committed to democracy, peace, and pluralism.

The Syria Democratic Transition Act was introduced Tuesday by Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Bob Casey (D-PA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). It calls for sanctions against those conducting significant transactions with the Syrian Central Bank as well as other persons designated by the Department of Treasury, including members of President Bashar Assad's inner circle.

The bill would also authorize the Obama administration to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the crisis and non-lethal military support for vetted groups of the Syrian opposition.

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) introduced the Free Syria Act. The bill is also sponsored by Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA). If passed, the legislation will 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.

Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) have called for similar measures. In a letter to President Obama on Thursday, they wrote that “there are credible options… including limited military options, that would require neither putting U.S. troops on the ground nor acting unilaterally.”

In addition to providing greater humanitarian assistance, this bipartisan legislation calls for targeted airstrikes against the regime's aircraft and assistance to Turkey to establish a safe zone within Syria. 

John Hannah, an FDD senior fellow who served in high-ranking national security positions in three administrations, both Democratic and Republican, praised the measures and remarked that, “one can only hope that the outstanding leadership demonstrated in these pieces of legislation 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 “a bipartisan group of senators and representatives is coming together to support the Syrian moderates who began what two years ago was a peaceful uprising.”

Dubowitz recommended that “the final legislation should 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.


The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a Washington-based non-profit, non-partisan policy institute dedicated to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism.


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