The Assad regime wields life-saving aid as a weapon of war. Nearly 1 million people in Syria are under siege. Many of the areas under siege, like eastern Ghouta, are bombarded by the air by the Assad regime and Russia, while on the ground they are encircled by pro-regime Iranian-backed forces. Those living under siege report being forced to live off of rotten food, leaves, or what little they can regenerate from scraps.
What little humanitarian aid makes it into Syria is often redirected by Syrian government officials and sold off to further fuel Assad’s war accounts. The UN continues to provide humanitarian aid that goes through Damascus and is siphoned off to run the Assad government’s war bureaucracy. Now the Assad regime is attempting to receive international reconstruction assistance to rebuild its war machine, in which U.S. adversaries like Iran are angling to reap immense benefit.
- Congress should increase humanitarian accounts for Syria in appropriations for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
- To ensure the unimpeded financing of humanitarian projects, Congress should codify existing OFAC General License 11A for Syria, which allows non-profit humanitarian and democracy promotion aid to flow unimpeded by U.S. financial institutions. Such codification provides additional clarity to humanitarian organizations operating in Syria.
- Congress should codify current U.S. policy to deny any U.S. reconstruction assistance to the Syrian government until it ceases civilian attacks, allows free and fair elections, and minimizes its reliance on foreign state sponsors, as in the No Assistance for Assad Act of 2017 (H.R. 4681).
- Congress should pass into law an amendment under Section 7041 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2018, by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which reads:
- “None of the funds appropriated by this Act for assistance for Syria may be made available for a project or activity that supports or otherwise legitimizes the Government of Iran, foreign terrorist organizations (as designated pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189), or a proxy of Iran in Syria.”