Washington, DC – With Syrian government forces launching a new wave of violence against civilians this week killing more than 125 protestors, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D–NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) will introduce the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011 this week – new bipartisan legislation that would establish tougher U.S. sanctions against Syria and hold President Bashar al-Assad’s regime accountable for its human rights abuses. Under this bill, the President would be called on to block access to the U.S. financial system, markets, and federal contracts for companies that invest in Syria’s energy sector, purchase the country’s oil, and sell gasoline to Syria.
“We condemn the Syrian government’s deplorable violence against its own people,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We must send a clear message to Syria that until the Assad regime responds to the democratic urging of its people, and halts its nuclear development and support for terrorism, Syria will not have any access to the global economy, and neither will any company doing business with Syria. Doing business with Syria funds the development of nuclear weapons and support for terrorists who have already harmed Americans and our allies. No company should be allowed to put their profits before our safety.”
“The United States should impose crippling sanctions in response to the murder of civilians by troops under the orders of Syrian President Assad,” Senator Kirk said. “The Arab Spring will sweep away this dictatorship, hopefully with the help of American sanctions similar to those leveled against the Iranian regime.”
“The pre-Ramadan assault by Bashar al Assad against the Syrian people demands a strong and immediate response by the U.S. and our allies,” Senator Lieberman said. “The legislation we are introducing today will target the Syrian regime’s economic dependence on the energy sector — dramatically ratcheting up pressure against the dictatorship in Damascus and in support of a democratic transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people.”
With approximately one-third of Syria’s export revenues coming from oil, the Gillibrand-Kirk legislation targets the oil and gas sector of the economy. Under the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011, President Obama would be required to impose tougher sanctions on Syria, similar to those imposed on Iran, until Syria transitions into a democracy for the people, ends support for terrorists, and ceases its nuclear program and missile technology and WMD trade. Sanctions on individuals or entities include prohibition on certain export licenses, blocking access to U.S. financial institutions and markets and federal contracts to violators, and imposing a three-year ban on government contracts against companies who falsely claim they do not conduct business with Syria. Currently, the U.S. bans most export and import trade with Syria, but sanctions do not extend to foreign companies.
Since protests in Syria erupted in March opposing the Assad regime, thousands of Syrians have died at the hands of the government’s security forces. The U.S. Administration has denounced President Assad, asserting his lost legitimacy. Syria provides Hezbollah with military aid, and maintains close relations with Iran. In the wake of the popular protests, Iran has provided military and technical assistance to Syria in its efforts to suppress peaceful protestors, resulting in U.S. sanctions against several Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commanders for their role in supporting the crackdown by Syria.