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Congress Demands Biden’s Administration Clarify US Strategy on Syria

Congress Demands Biden’s Administration Clarify US Strategy on Syria

Thursday, 9 December, 2021 - 11:00
Displaced Syrians in the countryside of Idlib, in northwest Syria(AFP)

The US House of Representatives has passed a law on disclosing the sources of the wealth of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his family and his inner circle, and requested that US federal agencies submit a detailed report.

It also requested the Biden administration to announce its strategy for Syria.

This came during the Congressional approval of the US Department of Defense budget for the year 2022 and now awaits the support of the Senate for the law to take effect. Many see the law’s passing as a legislative victory for the US against the Assad regime in Syria. It plays to the benefit of the Syrian revolution and popular opposition, which have long pressed the US to take stricter measures against the regime in Syria.

The initial draft of the bill included an interagency strategy to disrupt the Assad regime’s illicit drug networks in Syria. However, that part was excluded from the bill, which maintained the law on presenting a report on the wealth of Assad and his family members, including his cousins, such as the Makhloufs and others.

Among the amendments that were discussed, but did not succeed in obtaining enough votes to pass, is an amendment that requires a strategy for Syria and for making the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) self-sufficient enough to let go of the help of the US forces eventually.

According to the final version that was voted on and approved by submitting the law to the Senate, which is what Democratic Congresswoman Claudia Tenny had submitted, orders a report from the State Department on the net wealth of Assad and his family members, including his wife, children, siblings, as well as paternal and maternal cousins.

The approved amendment, No. 6507, included disclosure of “income from corrupt or illegal activities practiced by the Syrian regime.”

The legal amendment stressed the need for interagency coordination to apply US sanctions against Assad in Syria and the importance of “monitoring rampant corruption to ensure that no funds are directed to terrorist groups and malicious activities.”

The House bill also included a provision requiring the Secretary of Defense to report on the estimated cost savings from the complete withdrawal of US personnel and local contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, compared to the actual costs in the fiscal year 2021.

It also requested presenting the estimated cost of redirecting US personnel and materials and “increasing the budgetary power of ships, aircraft, nuclear weapons, key personnel, and operational costs, to actively participate in great power competition with Russia and China, and to effectively restrain and deter Russia and China militarily in all regions.”

In amendment No. 1222, legislators requested the submitting of a detailed report explaining the US military and political strategy in Syria in no more than 90 days, starting from the entry into force of the budget of the US Government, Fiscal Year 2022.

The amendment stipulated that after the date of enactment of this law, the US president, acting through the Secretary of State and in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, “shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report containing a description of the US strategy on defense and diplomacy toward Syria.”

For his part, Representative French Hill of Arkansas issued a statement voicing his disappointment that his provision to go after the multi-billion-dollar drug trade in Syria was not included.

“While I was disappointed my provision to go after the multi-billion-dollar drug trade in Syria was not included because of a disjointed process, I was pleased to see the note in the Conference Committee Report that indicated support for an interagency strategy to disrupt and dismantle the Assad regime’s illicit production and trafficking of Captagon in Syria. I look forward to pursuing other legislative avenues to move these important provisions forward,” said Hill.

Hill had previously released a video clip saying that the Biden administration must do everything in its power to stop the systematic drug smuggling operations in Syria, describing the Assad regime as a narcostate.

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