The United States should restrain Assad’s ability to wage war on civilians.
The Assad regime continues to bomb and besiege civilian populations. These attacks are frequently coordinated with — if not directly supported by — the Russian military and Iranian-backed proxy militias. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that over 90 percent of deaths in Syria have been caused by the Assad regime and its allies.
The regime’s most common targets include hospitals, schools, and places of worship. Over 63 percent of destroyed churches in Syria were destroyed by pro-Assad forces. Sometimes, these attacks include the use of chemical weapons, such as barrel bombs packed with chlorine gas. There have been well over 160 documented chemical attacks in Syria, and several as recently as 2018. There have also been ample instances of the use of other types of internationally banned munitions, such as cluster bombs and white phosphorous bombs. Meanwhile, nearly 1 million people in Syria are currently under siege — most of them by pro-Assad, Iranian-backed militias. The tactics employed by pro-regime forces break international laws and directly challenge stated U.S. policy directives.
We must demonstrate that the United States will not allow attacks on civilians — especially by Assad, his allies, and other rogue states like North Korea that are implicated in supporting Assad’s weapons programs.
- Enforce UN ceasefires or pursue civilian protection mechanisms like implementing No-Fly Zones or grounding Assad’s Air Force to make sure there are areas that are actually safe from bombing. Such action will allow civilians to return safely and voluntarily to their homes.
- Sanction those implicated in war crimes, particularly top Assad regime officials and those who substantively support Assad’s machinery of war, as suggested in the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 1677).
- Allow the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to fund the structural reinforcement of hospitals against bombing, as recommended in H.Res.632. Currently, reinforcement falls between the cracks of emergency response and development funding.