The United States must take a strong stand, supported by action, to stop Syria’s campaign of repression and human rights abuses against its own citizens, its longstanding support of international terrorism, and its continued failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Current law in the United States prohibits the Government of Syria from receiving assistance from the United States because it has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Recently the President issued additional sanctions with respect to Syria, stating that, “The Government of Syria’s human rights abuses, including those related to the repression of the people of Syria, manifested most recently by the use of violence and torture against, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of peaceful protestors by police, security forces, and other entities.”
The Government of Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has recently responded to protests by launching a violent crackdown, committing human rights abuses, and violating its international obligations. Independent international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented evidence that peaceful protestors detained by security forces of the government of Syria are being subjected to torture, including with electroshock devices, cables, sticks, and whips, and are being held in overcrowded cells, deprived of sleep, food, and water for days at a time.
In addition to the abuses rained down upon his own people, supporters of President Bashar al-Assad in July, attacked the embassies of the United States and France. This followed earlier demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy, sanctioned by the government of Syria.
Syria continues to transfer weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon in violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 of 2006 and has violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon in contravention of U. N. Security Council resolutions.
In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency referred Syria to the U.N. Security Council expressing “serious concern” regarding “Syria’s lack of cooperation”, highlighting the history of Syria’s concealment of nuclear activities.
Our own State Department, in a 2009 report, declared that “Syria continues to provide safe-haven as well as political and other support to a number of designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, noting that the “operational leadership” of those terrorist groups and others is “headquartered or sheltered in Damascus” and that the Syrian government provides diplomatic, political and material support to Hezbollah in Lebanon, allowing Iran to supply this organization with weapons.
On May 15, 2011, attempts to cross the Israel border near the Golan Heights were “an effort by the Syrian Government to play a destabilizing roll…a cynical use of the Palestinian cause to encourage violence along its border as it continues to repress its own people within Syria”, according to our State Department.
Following the atrocities the world has recently witnessed being carried out on a daily basis by the Assad Government, other nations and world bodies have begun to react.
The European Union recently agreed to impose sanctions on the government of Syria and the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution S-16/1, condemning the government of Syria for human rights abuses. What action has the United States government taken?
Syria remains highly dependent on energy revenues, even as Syria’s petroleum production has largely declined in recent years due to diminishing reserves and limited refining capacity.
In light of the threat that Syria now poses both domestically and internationally, we must urge our Members of Congress to co-sponsor and promote meaningful sanctions against Syria’s energy sector.
House Members must be urged to co-sponsor H.R. 2106, the Syria Freedom Support Act, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18) on June 3, 2011, and Senators must be urged to co-sponsor its companion bill, S. 1472.IS, the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011, introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, on August 2, 2011. Please contact your Members of Congress now!