„As the Obama administration scrambles for options in Syria, officials lament that the United States has no leverage over the Assad regime, Russia or Iran to persuade them to halt their ongoing atrocities, especially in Aleppo. But behind the scenes, the White House is actually working to weaken a sanctions bill lawmakers in both parties see as providing leverage against all three. According to lawmakers and staffers in both parties, the White House is secretly trying to water down the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that would sanction the Assad regime for mass torture, mass murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The bill, guided by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (N.Y.), would also sanction entities that aid the Syrian government in these atrocities; that includes Russia and Iran. The bill, named after a Syrian defector who presented the world with 55,000 pictures documenting Assad’s mass torture and murder of more than 11,000 civilians in custody, has 70 co-sponsors, a majority of whom are Democrats. The House was set to pass the bill late last month, but the White House made an 11th-hour plea to lawmakers to delay. The White House said the vote would upset the then-active cease-fire agreement with Moscow, and Democrats pulled their support, said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of the original sponsors of the bill. Now the White House has told members and staffers that the bill’s sanctions on Iran could violate the nuclear agreement the Obama administration struck with Tehran last year and the Russia sanctions could hurt any future efforts to work with Moscow diplomatically on Syria.“