Republican Representative French Hill criticized U.S. President Joe Biden policies towards Syria, saying that they do not go beyond “nothing more than tweets and statements,” calling for a clear and strong strategy and policy towards Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in fighting the drug trade, which he considered a threat to the U.S. national security.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Rep. Hill confirmed that he continues to push for the adoption of the “anti-narcotics” legislation, which was dropped from the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal year 2022, despite the vote on it by a large majority in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Hill and Rep. Brendan Boyle introduced a new amendment in a separate legislative process last week countering Assad’s Proliferation, Trafficking, and Garnering of Narcotics (CAPTAGON) Act.
Mr. Hill elaborated that the legislative process for the NDAA was disjointed this year. However, he knew there was support for the provision.
The 65-year-old Republican Representative from Arkansas considered that the Captagon trade threatens the national security of the United States.
“We note that the Captagon trade is a cause of instability in the Middle East that has negative implications for the national security of the United States and its allies and partners,” he added.
“We support the development of a strategy to guide appropriate action against narcotics production and trafficking and affiliated networks linked to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”
When asked about his assessment of the performance of the U.S. president’s administration in foreign policy toward Syria, he said: “I’ve been less than impressed with how the administration has engaged on Syria, which has consisted of nothing more than tweets and statements, and no action.”
Hill warned about the consequences of this “mishandled” policy and the lack of any clear strategy to deal with Syria.
“If Afghanistan is the example of how this administration acts, then I fully expect them to try to clandestinely normalize with Assad. Though, I was pleased to see the Executive Order imposing sanctions on foreigners involved in the global illicit drug trade.”
In response to a question about the gas pipeline initiative, which was talked about in the political corridors in Washington, and aims to extend gas from Egypt to Lebanon, through Jordan and Syria, Hill said: “I am concerned because it demonstrates an unwillingness to strictly enforce the Caesar Act and could open the door to legitimizing the Syrian regime.”
It is credited to Hill, the initiative to enact a law in the House of Representatives requiring the U.S. administration to develop a joint strategy between federal agencies, to disrupt and dismantle drug production in Syria, and the affiliated networks associated with the Assad regime.
Although the Biden administration does not stand in the way of crafting such a strategy, many observers have noted that it has also not prioritized the issue yet, by crafting a government-wide approach to responding to the Assad regime’s drug trade.
The U.S. administration faces lots of criticism due to the ineffectiveness of its position in the Syrian crisis, unlike the previous administration under President Trump. Josh Rogen, a columnist for The Washington Post, questioned Biden’s strategy in Syria and mentioned that during his presidential campaign he had promised to recommit the U.S. leadership to resolving the crisis in Syria.
He added: “Now, a year after his inauguration, the Biden administration’s policy toward Syria is at the same time inconsistent and contradictory, and the gap between what Biden’s team says and does, has left the region feeling confused, and the Syrian people feeling abandoned.”
However, Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who is concerned with following up the Syrian file, in a meeting with the Syrian opposition two months ago, identified three main American goals for the U.S. administration in its dealings with the crisis in Syria.
First, the continuation of American humanitarian aid, in partnership with international organizations to distribute aid and subsidies. Second, to continue fighting ISIS, in which the United States leads the international coalition. Finally, the U.S. will work to prevent the escalation of violence in Syria and to emphasize a political solution in accordance with UN resolution 2254.
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