U.S. Policy Priorities for Syria Post Ukraine Invasion
The American Coalition for Syria (ACS), a diverse and multi-faith initiative that supports a free and democratic Syria, stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has awakened the world to the destructive consequences of failing to hold President Vladimir Putin accountable for his war crimes and other atrocities in Syria. The bombing of hospitals and schools, displacement of millions of refugees, denying humanitarian access, and the use of prohibited weapons were the hallmark of Russia’s brutal campaign in Syria before employing them in Ukraine. With efforts underway to punish Putin for his actions in Ukraine, it is time for the United States to transition away from its dependency on Russia in Syria.
Re-energize Coordination with Allies on Syria
Over 30 percent of Syria’s territory and seven million Syrians are outside of the control of Assad in northwest and northeast Syria. The United States should work with Turkey and other international partners to coordinate economic, security, and political support that does not depend on Russian cooperation to the pro-democracy movement in Syria which includes Arabs, Kurds, and Assyrians among others.
Increase Humanitarian Assistance to Liberated Areas
The U.S. should increase humanitarian and stabilization funding to liberated communities, including the northwest where in Idlib there are over three million people who need aid, especially in the health and education sectors.
Expedite Resettlement of Syrian Refugees
The Biden administration should immediately begin resettlement of the 29,000 individuals who have been screened by the United Nations Refugee Agency and are ready for resettlement.
Enforce and Strengthen Accountability Measures
In 2019, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act was signed into law. The Caesar Act allows the U.S. to work diligently to implement robust new sanctions against the Assad regime and its supporters, particularly Russia and Iran. These financial tools should be implemented as part of a comprehensive strategy to deny the regime and Russia the means to continue their abuses. This should also include increased oversight of U.S. funding of the UN Syria humanitarian relief effort to ensure that U.S. money for aid does not line Assad or Putin’s pockets.
Counter Assad’s Captagon Trade
Assad has transformed Syria into a narco-state in which drug traffickers produce and distribute massive amounts of the illicit drug Captagon. This has netted the regime an estimated $5 billion in revenues, allowing Assad to evade sanctions. The illicit drug business has caused major problems for neighboring countries and has reached Europe, Asia, and Africa. If left unchecked, it may eventually make its way to the United States.
Address Aid Corruption and Inefficiencies
The Syrian government withholds vital humanitarian aid to areas outside its control and uses the aid system to surveil and control people in areas over which it has reestablished its rule. This has and will continue to deepen the deprivation and oppression that fueled the revolution, prolonging instability far into the future. International donors seeking to support Syria’s recovery need to address the Assad regime’s systematic manipulation of the aid system.
The American Coalition for Syria is happy to provide you with further information on any of these issues upon request. You can contact us at [email protected]
(Information current as of April 2022).