„The White House worked behind the scenes last week to prevent a bipartisan bill to sanction the Assad regime for war crimes and atrocities against civilians from getting a vote in the House of Representatives. The Democratic leadership bowed to White House pressure and withdrew its support for voting on the bill for now. Lawmakers and congressional staff had been preparing to bring up the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act this week and pass it out of the House with relative ease. The bill, named after a Syrian defector who presented the world with 55,000 pictures documenting Assad’s mass torture and murder of civilians in custody, has more than 50 co-sponsors, a majority of whom are Democrats.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was the primary author of the bill, along with his committee counterpart Ed Royce (R-Calif.). Even liberal Democrats like Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) had signed on. But late Friday afternoon, just before the legislative calendar for the following week was to be released, White House legislative affairs staffers began calling leadership in both parties urging them to shelve the legislation. The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told me that the White House pressured House Democratic leadership to pull their support for moving the bill, and Democrats obliged. (…) The bill would impose new sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters, spur investigations meant to fuel the prosecution of war crimes in Syria, and encourage a process to find a negotiated solution to the crisis. Specifically, it would require the president to impose new sanctions on any entity that does business with or finances the Syrian government or its military or intelligence services, which includes Russia and Iran. It would also require sanctions on any entity that does business with several Syrian government-controlled industries, including the airline, telecommunications and energy sectors. (…)
Some of the congressional officials who worked on the bill believe the administration is intentionally trying to delay it because the White House opposes placing strong pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Evan McMullin worked on the bill when he was policy director for Royce and then for the House Republican Conference. Now he is running as an independent candidate for president. ‚In 2014, the administration fought hard to prevent Caesar from testifying to Congress and the public of Assad’s crimes, all in the name of security,‘ he told me. ‚Now they’ve mobilized similarly against the sanctions bill, which is the very thing needed to help compel Assad to stop killing.‘“
(Josh Rogin: „White House worked secretly to delay Syria sanctions bill“)
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