Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the inclusion of key accountability and human rights safeguards in The Syria Transition Support Act, which was approved by the full committee Tuesday. The legislation expands humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and authorizes lethal and non-lethal assistance and training to Syrian moderate groups that are properly vetted through all relevant terrorist databases. The bill also sanctions weapon sales and petroleum sales to the Assad regime, while promoting U.S. leadership in planning for a post-Assad Syria.
“The conflict in Syria is devastating. We cannot continue to watch this humanitarian crisis grow worse with each passing day. We must act now to help shift the momentum in Syria toward moderate opposition forces fighting to liberate the country from Assad’s horrifying and deadly grip. It is important to note that the bill passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee does not authorize the use of force by the United States. Instead, it gives the administration the necessary authority to exercise appropriate international leadership to help make it clear to President Assad that his days are truly numbered,” said Senator Cardin.
“My amendments, which were adopted into the managers’ package, seek to ensure that the Syrian civil war does not threaten our allies in the region, especially Israel, and our NATO ally Turkey. Before exercising the authority to provide lethal assistance, my amendments require the President to secure significant international support from key European and Middle Eastern partners; provide Congress with a rationale for why the assistance is being provided; and develop a strategy to secure all weapons immediately after the cessation of violence,
“The Syrian rebels who are fighting in opposition to President Assad are not made up of one singular, unified group with one clear leadership and command structure. Some rebels are believed to be affiliated with members of terrorist organizations. It is critical that the Assad regime is replaced by a moderate Syrian government that respects the international human rights of its citizens and is a responsible neighbor to US allies in the region. That is why I sponsored provisions that require the recipients of lethal assistance are properly vetted through all relevant US terrorist databases; that they would respect international human rights and humanitarian law, including those that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity; and that they have reasonable accountability for those weapons.
“This enormous humanitarian and human rights crisis must come to an end. I have visited with Syrian refugees and I know that for them and their families, we cannot move too quickly to help put an end to this violence. However, we must ensure all necessary precautions are in place before infusing more lethal weapons into the region.”