House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Sanction Iran, Punish Assad’s Backers

Syria President Bashar al Assad

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a set of bipartisan bills that would place more sanctions on Iran and punish the financial supporters of the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The bills are designed to reinstate a decades-old law which sanctions Iran economically. The two bills benefited from a large support on Capitol Hill as both party agreed financial backers of Assad’s government should be sanctioned.

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York (D), Rep. Ed Royce (R) firmly backed the new regulations. Now, it is up to the Senate to vote on the bills before they land on President’s Barack Obama’s desk.

House Poised to Punish Assad for War Crimes

Regulators said the U.S. should punish Assad forces and trial the Syrian president for war crimes. The Syrian war stretched into its sixth year with no sign of a resolution. About half of million people died in the conflict and the Christian population sunk from 1.5 million in 2011 to 500,000 in 2016.

The worst hit was the city of Aleppo where the numbers of Christians slipped to 40,000 from 160,000. Most Christians now live in government-controlled regions. Islamic terrorists executed tens of thousands of Christians so many chose to become refugees.

Royce said the “ethnic cleansing” must stop. He said that even the U.N. believes the crimes in Syria gained “historic proportions.”

“Enough’s enough,”

Royce said.

The Syria bill seeks to sanction countries, companies, and individuals that do business or provide financial support to Assad’s forces or the war-torn country’s central bank. The backers include Iran, Russia, and many companies. The companies include airline operators that provide commercial aircrafts to Syria, telecom and transportation firms, and anyone supporting Syria’s energy industry.

Meanwhile, Engel threatened that anyone who acts as a “lifeline” to the Syrian government will end up in a net of sanctions. But sanctions are not permanent. If peace negotiations are successful, and civilians are safe, the U.S. would lift sanctions.

Bills May Anger Moscow, Teheran

However, new sanctions may sour the country’s relationship with Russia even more. The White House brought this argument when it was negotiating with Russia a cease-fire. In the meantime, Russian negotiations failed, but the sanctions could unnerve Iran. In return, the Middle East country could drop the long-fought nuclear deal.

The new legislation will allow the State Department to collect and store evidence for war crimes. Secretary of State John Kerry thinks both Syria and Russia governments should face war crime trials. Russia is a long-standing supporter of the Assad regime.

Lawmakers named the Syria bill after a photographer going by the alias Caesar: the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. Reportedly, Caesar photographed over 10,000 bodies of people killed in the war. The Foreign Affairs Committee heard Caesar’s testimony in 2014 and concluded that he indeed witnessed a “genocidal massacre.”

The Iran sanction bill passed the House on a sweeping 419 to 1 vote. The only Representative who objected was Thomas Massie (R) whose votes have been unconventional.

Moreover, the bill will enable the U.S. to punish Iran if it fails to comply with last year’s nuclear deal. Under the deal, Teheran agreed to renounce its nuclear program. In return, the U.S. and its allies promised to suspend the crippling economic and financial  sanctions on the country.

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