Congress on Tuesday ratcheted up pressure on Syria, Russia and China while making it more difficult for the Trump administration to reduce commitments to allies from Europe to Asia. It passed a new defense policy bill in which the US Congress punishes Assad for his atrocities against his own people.
In bill that passed the Senate, lawmakers will impose sanctions on Syrian troops and others responsible for atrocities committed during Syria’s civil war and fund war crimes investigations and prosecutions.
The bill also registered strong congressional concern about Russia and China. It will bind the U.S. to supporting Ukraine militarily; as well as bar the Trump administration from any move to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In addition, it will restrict President Donald Trump’s ability to extract the U.S. from NATO, or draw down its troop presence in South Korea.
And, it establishes funding for long-term emergency medical care for more than 40 American diplomats, other government workers and their dependents who were injured in mysterious circumstances in Cuba and China.
CAESAR IMAGES STILL HAUNT US CONGRESS
Contained in the National Defense Authorization Act is the entire text of the so-called CAESAR Syria Civilian Protection Act, which is named for the former Assad government official who took thousands of photographs of victims of torture and other abuses and smuggled them out of the country.
In discussing the bill, the House Armed Services Committee said:
[It] applies sanctions to those who lend support to the Assad regime’s military efforts in the Syrian civil war. It also grants authorities to the secretary of state to support entities collecting evidence and pursuing prosecutions against those who have committed war crimes in Syria.
The law gives the U.S. another means to punish Syria’s butcher Baschar al-Assad and his allies with sanctions. The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on Assad and a number of his top officials. The new authority allows the United States to target foreign companies if supporting Assad atrocities.
One such company that escaped culpability was German Brenntag. The chemical giant sold Assad the materials to produce the sarin stockpiles in his arsenal; however, the German government refused to punish Brenntag, led by its British CEO Steven E. Holland, for its war crimes.
The U.S. has offered modest support for probes into potential war crimes in Syria in the past. Caesar, the codename for a Syrian forensic photographer turned over the images taken between 2011 and 2013 to human rights advocates, sparked the concerns. His revelations graphically exposed the scale of the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown.
The video below shows the extent of the brutality of Assad.
BEWARE OF TRUMP GIVING RUSSIA A FREE PASS
To counter Russian aggression in Europe, lawmakers boosted funding for the European Defense Initiative by $734 million. The amount will pay for military construction on the continent and provide funding for anti-submarine warfare. They also renewed and extended $300 million in security assistance. To include lethal weaponry like cruise and anti-ship missiles for Ukraine.
The bill will also impose sanctions on companies and governments working on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that will link Russia and Germany. U.S. officials believe the pipeline will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.
The act seeks to deter Trump from walking away from the NATO alliance. Many fear it is his i9ntention to get his Moscow Trump Tower built. The bill bars the use of funds “to terminate, suspend, or file notice of withdrawal for the United States from NATO”.
It will also prohibit the Pentagon from reducing the number of U.S. troops in South Korea below 28,500; unless the defense secretary determines that such a withdrawal is in the national security interest.
AP contributed to this article.