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Lawmakers Propose New Syria Legislation

11:01 AM, Mar 30, 2012 • By EVAN MOORE and ROBERT ZARATE
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The United Nations reports that over 9,000 have been killed in Syria during the anti-regime uprising that has been going on for the last year. So far, however, President Obama has taken a hands-off approach, relying exclusively on diplomacy and sanctions.

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In the face of the Obama administration’s dithering, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are upping the ante. Senator John McCain (R, Ariz.)—along with Senators Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.), Joe Lieberman (D, Conn.), Jon Kyl (R, Ariz. ), Kelly Ayotte (R, N.H.), and John Hoeven (R, N.D.)—unveiled the text of a resolution that condemns the Assad regime’s mass atrocities and human rights abuses. The resolution recognizes that the Syrian people “have an inherent right to defend themselves against the campaign of violence being conducted by the Assad regime, and urges the President not only to provide weapons and other material support to the people of Syria, but also to work with members of the international community to create safe havens for Syrian civilians.”

Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved an amended version of the Syria Freedom Support Act, authored by Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, Fla.) and Congressman Eliot Engel (D, N.Y.), which imposes new sanctions on the Syrian energy and financial sectors, as well as on the regime’s proliferation activities. The bill would also impose new human rights sanctions that target Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad and other top regime officials, and authorize the State Department to provide financial and political assistance to carefully vetted foreign and domestic entities that seek to facilitate a democratic transition in a post-Assad Syria.

Since August 2011, when President Obama himself demanded that Assad step down, the Syrian dictator has brutally demonstrated his continued willingness to kill, imprison, and torture his own people in order to stay in power. International sanctions have impacted the Syrian economy, but have not stopped the regime’s bloodletting.  Sadly, the slaughter in Syria will only continue in the absence of vocal and sustained American leadership and action. 

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