Anti-normalization act “significant leap” against Assad – Expert

WASHINGTON, Syria (North Press) – The newly approved bill by the US House of Representative – which fights efforts of normalizing ties with the Syrian government – constitutes a significant leap in terms of sanctions imposed on President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an expert told North Press on Tuesday.

Two days before the Arab Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives hurried to pass ‘Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act of 2023’.

Usually, similar bills take months to be passed in the US Congress, but the House of Representatives held an urgent meeting after negotiations that lasted until late hours for days in Congress to ensure passing the law before the Arab Summit in Jeddah next Friday, May 19.

The bill provides for an immediate extension of the ‘Caesar Act’, a law that sanctions those who do business with Syrian government, until 2032.

The act will not be lifted unless the government complied with some conditions, including ceasing the bombing and targeting of civilians, immediately releasing all Syrian detainees, and allowing international organizations to enter and check Syrian prisons.

In this regard, Samir al-Taqi, a researcher at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said, “The recent bill is the most important leap in terms of sanctions that the US has imposed on Damascus in recent years.”

The recent move in Congress, al-Taqi said, will not only be symbolic as it ensures the extension of US sanctions for several years, “thus blocking any party that wants to provide financial support to the Syrian government.”

He noted that the new law addresses the loopholes that previously hindered the full implementation of the US sanctions and showcases that no party can impose itself by force on the international community.

Al-Taqi believes that the return of the Syrian government to the Arab League will not yield any tangible results on the ground except for “commemorative photos” at Arab Summit meetings.

Damascus was readmitted into the Arab League this week and will likely attend a League summit in Riyadh on May 19 after receiving a formal invitation. Several Middle Eastern countries have recently made moves to normalize ties with al-Assad’s government.

The political researcher said that previous attempts by Arab countries to rehabilitate war criminals like Omar al-Bashir and Muammar Gaddafi have failed, adding that Arab overtures would not be different.

Caroline Rose, a researcher at the Newlines Institute, a think tank based in Washington, stated that the US is determined to intensify its diplomatic efforts in partnership with governing bodies in northeastern Syria to reach a political solution for Syria that brings justice to all Syrians and impedes normalization efforts.

She added that the Biden administration fully agrees with the Congress regarding opposing steps that aims for normalization with the Syrian government.

All US political bodies reject the rehabilitation of the Syrian government before achieving a political settlement that is accepted by Syrians and the international community.

Rose said she does not expect the Syrian government to commit to any Arab conditions related to curbing the captagon trade or Iran’s influence on Syrian territories.

Reporting by Hadeel Oueiss