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House overwhelmingly approves resolution to maintain Syria sanctions after earthquake

Originally published: Antiwar.com on March 1, 2023 by Dave DeCamp (more by Antiwar.com) (Posted Mar 06, 2023)

The House this week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to maintain sanctions on Syria following a devastating earthquake that has killed at least 5,900 people in the country, The Cradle reported on Wednesday.

The resolution was introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and received 51 cosponsors. It passed in a vote of 414-2. Only Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) voted against the measure.

The resolution calls for the Biden administration to remain committed to “implementing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019,” a law that imposed crippling sanctions on Syria that are designed to prevent the country from rebuilding after years of war.

The resolution said that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was “falsely claiming” U.S. sanctions impeded the aid response to the earthquake. But it’s a fact that U.S. sanctions hurt the relief effort, something that has been detailed by the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and UN experts.

After initially claiming sanctions wouldn’t hurt the relief effort, the Biden administration issued a 180-day sanctions exemption for transactions related to earthquake relief. UN experts responded by welcoming the move but said it wasn’t enough and called for the sanctions to be fully lifted.

The House resolution said it “mourned” the victims of the earthquake and portrayed enforcing the Caesar Act as a way to “protect” the Syrian people. But even before the earthquake, U.S. sanctions on Syria were having a devastating impact on the civilian population. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged in 2021 that it was U.S. policy to “oppose the reconstruction of Syria,” and the policy hasn’t changed.

Business Insider covered Greene and Massie voting against the resolution but completely mischaracterized the bill. The report said they voted against “mourning the 50,000 people killed in the deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria” and made no mention of the fact that it supported maintaining crushing sanctions on Syria.

The Biden administration has said it’s against regional countries upgrading ties with the Assad government, even if it’s part of an effort to aid in earthquake relief. On top of the sanctions and opposing Syria’s engagement with its neighbors, the U.S. maintains an occupation force of about 900 troops in eastern Syria and backs the Kurdish-led SDF in the region, allowing the U.S. to control about one-third of Syrian territory. The area the U.S. controls is where most of the country’s oil resources are, keeping the vital resource out of the hands of Damascus.

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