Unsurprisingly, Arab authoritarian regimes are attempting to rehabilitate Bashar al-Assad within the Arab world. These regimes, who are seeking to normalize relations with him, share similar characteristics and practices. They are not governed by democratic systems where decisions are made through parliamentary deliberation and public opinion holds weight. Additionally, authoritarian regimes are typically conservative and resistant to change and fear any form of change that may disrupt their power.
The UAE may lead the normalization train with Assad, followed by several Arab countries, but who is preventing this normalization?
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Unfortunately, the Biden administration is a bystander and claims to reject any normalization with Assad, but it is not working hard enough to prevent it from being verified in full view of the world.
The administration’s actions have been hesitant and largely responsive to congressional pressure. The House of Representatives and Senate Foreign Relations Committees have been working diligently to exert pressure on the administration to cease any efforts to normalize relations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime. These committees have also pushed for accountability for the crimes committed against the Syrian people, calling for the implementation of two key congressional resolutions on Syria – the Caesar Act and Captagon Act.
After some delay, the U.S. administration has responded by imposing sanctions on individuals associated with Bashar al-Assad’s regime for their involvement in drug trafficking. The decision was made by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, which worked in coordination with its UK counterparts to designate certain individuals on the sanctions list. These individuals have been identified as supporting the Assad regime and engaging in the production and export of Captagon. The sanctions come in addition to the previously implemented Caesar and Captagon Acts.
According to the Treasury, Syria has become a major producer of the highly addictive drug Captagon, much of which is smuggled through Lebanon. The Treasury has stated its commitment to working with its partners to hold accountable those who support Bashar al-Assad’s regime through illicit drug trafficking and other financial means, which enable the regime’s ongoing repression of the Syrian people. The Treasury’s recent sanctions serve as a warning that such actions will not be tolerated.
The recent sanctions have targeted individuals who are close allies of the Assad family, including Khaled Kaddour, a Syrian businessman who has been designated by the Treasury Department as being close to Maher al-Assad. Maher al-Assad has also been designated under Executive Order 13572 of 2011, due to his role in the Syrian government’s human rights violations against the Syrian people.
It is clear that Congress is playing a critical role in pressuring the U.S. administration to take effective measures to prevent the rehabilitation of Assad on the Arab or international levels. The Syrian community in America must continue to work closely with Congress to ensure that the administration remains accountable. These recent sanctions, which have exposed Assad’s regime as a gang involved in drug trafficking, as stated by the U.S. Treasury Department, should serve as a warning that the international community will not tolerate the continued oppression of the Syrian people.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.