Press Releases

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), announced new legislation called the Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013.

“The conflict in Syria has entered its third year.  The United States Senate should stand with the people of Syria during this critical period– the fall of Assad is not only good for Syria, but will deal a significant blow to Iran and Hezbollah,” said Senator Casey. “This bill includes a combination of humanitarian assistance, non-lethal equipment and training for the armed opposition, and sanctions against elements of the regime.  The killing and destruction has gone on too long and we need to renew our efforts to support the Syrian people and opposition.” 

“In Syria, we have a terrible humanitarian crisis that is strengthening Iran’s influence and giving Islamist terrorists a chance to seize power after Assad is gone,” said Senator Rubio.  “This legislation is a way forward in Syria that is in line with our interests because it authorizes non-lethal direct assistance to democratically-oriented groups, encourages creative ways for U.S. aid to be more apparent to the Syrian people, and urges the president to pursue additional, crippling sanctions to isolate the Assad regime and those supporting him.”

The legislation would authorize U.S. assistance for Syrian civilians and innocent victims of the conflict, many of whom are women and children.  It would also expand sanctions against the government of Bashar al Assad, strengthen U.S. support for democratically-oriented political opposition groups and help ensure stability and security in Syria during and after a political transition.  The Senators discussed their efforts today prior to a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis.

Casey and Rubio held a media availability this morning to discuss the bill.  Listen here for Rubio’s remarks, a transcript of which is available here.

A summary of the legislation is below:

SYRIA DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION ACT OF 2013

In March 2011, the Syrian people began demonstrating against the authoritarian government of President Bashar al Assad.  The regime responded with terrible violence against its citizens, including the use of weapons of war, torture, arbitrary executions, sexual violence, and interference with access to medical treatment.  The violence has escalated rapidly, and now more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed, over 1 million are seeking refuge in neighboring countries, and an estimated 2.5 million are internally displaced.  The United Nations estimates that more than 4 million Syrians are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. 

This legislation would authorize U.S. assistance for Syrian civilians and innocent victims of the conflict, many of whom are women and children.  It would also strengthen U.S. support for democratically-oriented political opposition groups and help ensure stability and security in Syria during and after a political transition.  Specifically, the Syria Democratic Transition Act would:

  • Increase U.S. assistance to victims of the Syrian conflict.  The bill states that it is U.S. policy to support civilians and innocent victims of the conflict, particularly women and children who are displaced and vulnerable to exploitation.  It would authorize additional support for humanitarian activities inside and outside Syria, including to refugees in neighboring countries.  It would authorize seed funding for a Syrian Reconstruction Fund, to leverage other donor funding and prepare for reconstruction. 
  • Support a political transition and the establishment of an inclusive, democratic government of Syria.  The bill would encourage democratically-oriented political opposition groups to agree upon an inclusive transition plan that reflects the democratic aspirations of all Syrians.  The bill would authorize bilateral assistance to support institutional capacity building for the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Assistance Coordination Unit, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, resettlement of internally displaced persons and refugees, and humanitarian and development activities.
  • Provide non-lethal equipment to vetted elements of the armed opposition.  The bill would assist vetted elements of the opposition by authorizing the provision of non-lethal equipment and training on human rights and the international law of war.
  • Build Public Awareness of U.S. Assistance.  The bill would require the Administration to scale up their public awareness campaign through traditional and social media and to brand assistance only if they assess that it would not a) put assistance providers and networks at risk or b) undermine the program’s effectiveness.
  • Help secure non-conventional weapons stockpiles in Syria.  The bill requires a briefing on all known weapons stockpiles in Syria and encourages the U.S. to develop a plan to identify and secure all weapons stockpiles, recover and dispose of all non-conventional weapons, and prevent the illicit sale or transfer of weapons out of Syria.
  • Expand sanctions against the Central Bank of Syria and designated individuals. The bill would encourage the Administration to sanction foreign financial institutions that knowingly do business with the Central Bank of Syria or any Syrian entities or individuals already designated by the Treasury Department.