Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Jeremy M. Sharp Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs Christopher M. Blanchard Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs April 22, 2013 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 RL33487 CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Summary The popular-uprising-turned-armed-rebellion in Syria has entered its third year, and seems poised to continue, with the government and a bewildering array of militias locked in a bloody struggle of attrition. U.S. officials and many analysts believe that Asad and his supporters will ultimately be forced from power, but few offer specific, credible timetables for a resolution to the crisis. Opposition forces are formidable, but forces loyal to President Bashar al Asad continue to resist, using air strikes, artillery, and pro-government militias in punishing counterattacks. U.S. officials believe that the capacity of government forces is eroding but also believe that fighting would likely continue even if opposition groups achieve their objective of toppling Asad. Some members of the Sunni Arab majority and of ethnic and sectarian minority groups view the conflict in communal, zero-sum terms. Many observers worry that a further escalation in fighting or swift regime change could jeopardize the security of chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles, threaten minority groups, or lead to wider civil or regional conflict. Amid extensive damage to major urban areas and reports attributing war crimes to government and opposition forces, the fighting has created a regional humanitarian emergency. Some estimates suggest more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed since unrest began in March 2011. As of April 22, more than 1,380,406 refugees had fled the country, more than 1.1 million of them since September 2012. According to the United Nations, as many as 3.6 million Syrians may be internally displaced. United Nations appeals for $1.5 billion for Syrians through June 2013 remain mostly underfunded, with U.N officials warning of a potential collapse of their ability to support the growing number of those displaced and in need. The United States has provided $409 million in humanitarian assistance to date. President Obama and his Administration have been calling for Asad’s resignation since August 2011, and have pressed the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Syrian government. The United States has recognized the National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces (SOC) as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and is providing nonlethal assistance to the Coalition and an affiliated Supreme Military Command Council (SMC). The Obama Administration believes that a negotiated political settlement is required and has prepared military plans to secure Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, if necessary. Members of Congress and Obama Administration officials are weighing these issues as they continue to debate U.S. policy. Some observers advocate for more robust nonlethal and lethal aid to the SOC and SMC as a means of forcing the Asad regime to the negotiating table. Opponents of this approach argue that making opposition groups more formidable could intensify the fighting and risks empowering extremists. Meanwhile, Asad refuses to step down and warns his supporters that “victory is the only option.” Some armed opposition factions, including powerful Islamist coalitions, reject negotiation outright and prefer a military solution to the conflict. After two years of unrest and violence, the central question for policy makers remains how best to bring the conflict in Syria to a close before the crisis consigns the region to one of several destructive and destabilizing scenarios. The human toll of the fighting, and the resulting political, ethnic, and sectarian polarization, all but guarantee that political, security, humanitarian, and economic challenges will outlast Asad and keep Syria on the U.S. agenda for years to come. Congressional Research Service Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Contents Assessment ...................................................................................................................................... 1 Status of Ongoing Armed Conflict ............................................................................................ 1 Status of the Syrian Opposition ................................................................................................. 6 U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress ................................................................................................ 9 U.S. Assistance ........................................................................................................................ 10 Arms, Intervention, and Syria’s Opposition: Changes in U.S. Policy? ................................... 11 Key Security Issues ................................................................................................................. 12 Al Qaeda, Extremism, and Foreign Fighters ..................................................................... 12 Securing Syrian Weapons Stockpiles ................................................................................ 14 Outlook and Future Policy Considerations for Congress ........................................................ 17 Possible Appropriations and Authorization Issues ............................................................ 18 Securing Weapons Supplies and Sites ............................................................................... 19 Addressing Syria’s State Sponsor of Terrorism Status ...................................................... 19 Possible Questions for Oversight ...................................................................................... 20 Figures Figure 1. Map of Syria: Conflict and Basic Data............................................................................. 4 Figure 2. Syrian Opposition Groups: Relationships and Factions ................................................... 9 Figure 3. Profiles of Select Opposition Groups and Militias ........................................................... 7 Figure 4. Profiles of Select Opposition Groups and Militias ........................................................... 8 Tables Table D-1. U.S. Sanctions Against Syria in 2011-2013 ................................................................. 35 Appendixes Appendix A. Syria Legislation in the 113th Congress .................................................................... 23 Appendix B. Syria Legislation in the 112th Congress .................................................................... 25 Appendix C. Chronology of United Nations Action on Syria ....................................................... 30 Appendix D. U.S. Sanctions on Syria ............................................................................................ 33 Contacts Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 45 Congressional Research Service Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Assessment The escalating conflict in Syria poses increasingly complex and difficult policy questions for Congress and the Obama Administration. The popular-uprising-turned-armed-rebellion against the Asad regime has entered its third year, and seems poised to continue, with the government and a bewildering array of militias locked in a bloody struggle of attrition. Al Qaeda affiliates and other violent extremists, including foreign fighters, have assertively demonstrated their presence in Syria. Syria’s armed forces remain under tremendous strain,1 and reportedly continue to receive significant outside assistance from Iran, Russia,2 and Hezbollah. The Syrian government has resorted to indiscriminate attacks on rebel-held areas and has stated its willingness to use its unconventional weapons in the event of foreign military intervention. The Syrian opposition’s political divisions persist, even as the resilience and tactics of armed rebels make the limitations of the Syrian security forces more and more apparent. United Nations officials have cited estimates that as many as 3.6 million Syrians have been displaced inside the country. As of April 22, there are an estimated 1.38 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. These factors complicate ongoing debates over U.S. national interests in Syria and potential policy responses. To date, debate has largely focused on the humanitarian and regional balance of power implications of the uprising, and Members of Congress have weighed various policy proposals in the hope of catalyzing and facilitating a relatively orderly negotiated transition. Looking ahead, the prospects for such a transition appear to be all but nonexistent, and the focus of debate is shifting toward identifying and mitigating the negative consequences of a series of less orderly contingencies. Issues of particular concern include the potential for prolonged sectarian or ethnic conflict, threats to Syria’s territorial integrity, potential insecurity of chemical weapons and conventional arms stockpiles, regional refugee flows, the future of violent extremist groups, and the future costs of establishing security and rebuilding the country. Status of Ongoing Armed Conflict As of April 2013, the armed conflict in Syria shows no signs of abating. Opposition forces have strengthened their capabilities and broadened their control over areas of northwestern, eastern, and southern Syria, but they have been unable to deal a decisive blow against the Alawitedominated security forces of President Bashar al Asad. The broad grouping of forces opposing Asad’s regime includes a multitude of local militias; army defectors; and volunteers fighting in brigades that are organized under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and various armed Islamist coalitions. Some of these groups include foreign fighters. Various rebel forces have gradually seized territory in an arc along the Syria-Turkey border, along the Euphrates River, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, and along the Syria-Jordan border. 1 U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently stated in testimony that, “After more than two years of conflict in Syria, the erosion of the regime's capabilities is accelerating. We see this in its territorial losses, military manpower and logistics shortages. The opposition is slowly but surely gaining the upper hand.” 2 Section 1295 of H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, required the Administration to provide a report within 90 days of enactment on Russian military assistance to Syria. For more information, see CRS Report RL33407, Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests, coordinated by Jim Nichol. Congressional Research Service 1 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Islamist militia groups; Free Syrian Army brigades; and local fighters in different cities, continue to operate relatively independently. Several leading opposition groups hold divergent and potentially contradictory goals for the country’s political future. Groups with divergent priorities now control different areas of the country. Islamist fighters, including the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al Nusra (Support Front), captured the city of Ar Raqqah (Raqqa) in March 2013. Kurdish forces control areas of northeastern Syria, and some Kurds have clashed with Arab Islamists. Bombings and clashes occur daily near and inside the capital, Damascus, and the contest continues for control over military bases near Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub and second-largest city. Intense fighting in the south is ongoing, while government forces apparently are consolidating in strongholds in the center of the capital and its western suburbs. Media reports and online videos indicate that rebel forces have taken over several military bases outside Aleppo, along with strategic towns and checkpoints along the main highway that links Aleppo to Damascus. These rebel gains have created a major obstacle for the government’s resupply of its forces in northern Syria. The government is widely presumed to prioritize maintaining control over its strongholds in Damascus and parts of Aleppo, along with the arc linking Damascus north and west along the Lebanese border to the Alawite-populated areas of the coast. As death tolls have spiraled, both sides have adopted brutal tactics. In many areas, the regime has resorted to the use of air power, Scud missile strikes, and indiscriminate shelling of entire population centers, as part of a strategy to leave rebels with damaged physical infrastructure and a resentful population. A February 2013 report by a United Nations Human Rights Council Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria found that “grave human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity” continue to occur in Syria.3 The report attributes war crimes to both government and opposition forces. These crimes have intensified as Syria’s civil war has taken on an increasingly sectarian dimension. In many areas, Alawite-led security forces and allied militia such as Jaysh al Shaabi (Popular Army) are engaged in combat with predominantly Sunni rebel militias. Some of these Sunni militias are becoming more radicalized and aligned with extremist groups such as Ahrar al Sham (the Free Ones of the Levant) or the Nusra Front. The Obama Administration has designated as terrorist groups both the Popular Army and the Nusra Front pursuant to terrorism and Syria-related sanctions legislation and executive orders. In early April, the Al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq announced its merger with the Nusra Front, but a Nusra leader reportedly rejected the claim and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Over time, Syria’s conflict has become more complex. Sporadic clashes have broken out within the ranks of the armed opposition and allegedly within the tight-knit Alawite community. Violence also has spilled over to varying degrees into neighboring states, such as Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. Many observers are concerned that the country is descending into anarchy. If current trends hold, fighting may gradually turn from a two-sided war into a contest involving multiple combatants from armed ethnic/sectarian communities, rebel militias, and remnants of the old regime. Cross-border violence is growing in parallel to Asad’s desperation. In November 2012, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, warned that “if this issue is not dealt with correctly, the danger is ‘Somalisation’ and not partition—the collapse of the state and the emergence of warlords, militias and fighting groups.” 3 U.N. Document A/HRC/22/595, Fourth Report of Commission of Inquiry on Syria, February 2013. Congressional Research Service 2 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response President Asad routinely warns that state failure in Syria will destabilize the region. U.S. officials and some Members of Congress have expressed similar concerns about fragmentation and extremism, while also demanding Asad’s departure and increasing support to the opposition. In sum, the short-to- medium-term security outlook for Syria and its neighbors is not positive. The United States and other third parties face difficult choices with limited potential to shape the overall outcome. Prospects for a Negotiated Settlement During 2013, Syrian government and opposition leaders and their international backers have weighed negotiations for either a cease-fire or a political settlement. However, as of April, these efforts had yet to bear fruit, and conflicting statements from opposition leaders cast doubt on the opposition’s unity and continued openness to considering a negotiated settlement. In February 2013, then-leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (hereafter referred to as the Syrian Opposition Coalition or SOC) Mouaz al Khatib made a surprise announcement that he was willing to conditionally enter into negotiations with the Asad government. Khatib’s resignation and replacement by Syrian National Council leader George Sabra signaled a potential change in approach. In February, Sabra said there would be “no formal and informal talks with the Syrian regime if Bashar al Asad and his team is still in power. They have to leave power. Then we can start the dialogue, with the others which didn't give any orders to kill people, to damage the country.” Opposition Interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto stated in his inaugural speech that “there will be no dialogue with the Asad regime.” Defining a consensus list of regime officials to negotiate with continues to prove difficult for the fractious opposition. Although Asad has rejected calls for his resignation since January, he also has called for a mutual cease-fire, which if adhered to could lead to a “national dialogue.” Negotiations, involving U.S., Russian, Arab League, and U.N. officials have explored the potential for national dialogue in line with the Geneva Accord of mid-2012, which called for dialogue as the basis for a transition to a new government. In the meantime, the Obama Administration continues to call for Asad’s resignation while providing humanitarian aid to international organizations supporting Syrian civilians and nonlethal support to unarmed and armed elements of the Syrian opposition. Secretary of State John Kerry has indicated that the U.S. “goal is to see us have a negotiated outcome and minimize the violence.” In the interim, the Obama Administration has worked with Congress to increase the provision of support to the political opposition and shift toward the overt provision of nonlethal support to armed opposition elements. The central question for policy makers remains how best to bring the conflict in Syria to a close before the crisis consigns the region to one of several destructive and destabilizing scenarios. The SOC recently demanded the imposition of a no-fly zone near Syria’s borders and called for targeted strikes on missile and chemical weapons sites. Some observers have advocated more robust nonlethal and lethal aid to the SOC and the opposition’s Supreme Military Command Council (SMC). Supporters of this approach argue that increasing aid to the opposition will force the Asad regime to the negotiating table. Opponents argue that making opposition groups more formidable could intensify the fighting. Some armed opposition factions, including powerful Islamist coalitions, reject negotiation outright and prefer a military solution to the conflict. As noted above, the Obama Administration and U.N. officials continue to call for a political settlement. However, as of April, such a settlement remained elusive, and continued conflict appeared likely. Congressional Research Service 3 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Figure 1. Map of Syria: Conflict and Basic Data Congressional Research Service 4 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Status of the Syrian Opposition The decentralized nature and divided views of key Syrian opposition forces have tempered foreign support for some components of the opposition movement. Since unrest began in March 2011, no single leader or group has been able to fully establish itself as a universally supported representative of Syrians seeking to oust the Asad regime. Third parties have been forced to manage relationships with a complex and diverse set of Syrian opposition figures, as rivalries have developed between local leaders and exiles, among militia commanders on the ground, and between those who seek accommodation with elements of the existing government and those who seek to bring down the entire regime structure. Deep differences of opinion about the future of Syria lurk beneath the surface, with Islamist and secular activists at odds, some Kurds seeking autonomy, and armed extremist groups empowering themselves on the ground.5 The latest attempt to engineer a united opposition front came in October and November 2012, and saw the Syrian National Council (SNC, see Figure 3 below) incorporated into a broader umbrella group known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (Syrian Opposition Coalition or SOC, see Figure 3 below). The SNC had previously been recognized by some outsiders as “a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change.” However, the United States and others in the international community grew frustrated with the SNC because of its infighting; its inability to attract more members of Syrian minority communities; its inability to reconcile with rival opposition groups; and its perceived lack of legitimacy inside Syria.6 In pressing for an opposition coalition that would be more inclusive and legitimate, the United States, the Arab League, and other international actors have now extended recognition to the SOC as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” Qatar has opened a representative office for the SOC and the Arab League has transferred Syria’s seat to an SOC representative. The United States has not recognized the SOC as the government of Syria. From late 2012 through April 2013, 52-year-old Ahmed Mouaz al Khatib, a Sunni Islamist opposition activist, served as SOC President. He finalized his resignation in April, reportedly in frustration that the United States and others refuse to intervene militarily or overtly provide weaponry. Khatib willingness to negotiate with Syrian government figures was criticized within the SOC, especially from members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.7 Khatib also drew criticism from some foreign observers after he questioned the U.S. designation of Jabhat al Nusra as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.8 In comments since, he has repeated his criticism of what he regards as the use of terrorism fears as an excuse for international passivity while simultaneously rejecting extremist violence and criticizing unnamed countries for exporting extremism to Syria. SOC members met in Istanbul in mid-March 2013 and elected a Syrian-born U.S. citizen, Ghassan Hitto, to serve as the Interim Prime Minister of an opposition government to administer 5 See Yezid Sayigh, “The Syrian Opposition’s Leadership Problem,” Carnegie Middle East Center (Beirut), April 3, 2013. 6 In late October, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced the SNC, stating that “There has to be representation of those who are on the front lines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom.... This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes, but have, in many instances, have not been inside Syria for 20, 30 or 40 years.” 7 “Syrian Lawmaker Rejects Conditions for Peace Talks,” Associated Press, February 6, 2013. 8 Khatib said, “The logic under which we consider one of the parts that fights against the Assad regime as a terrorist organization is a logic one must reconsider.” See, “Head of new U.S.-backed Syrian coalition endorses al Qaida-linked rebel faction,” McClatchy, December 12, 2012. Congressional Research Service 6 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response rebel held territory. Concerns within the opposition about Hitto and his election reflected some longstanding divisions.9 According to SOC sources, Hitto is now presiding over plans to create an 11-ministry interim cabinet. George Sabra has replaced Khatib as SOC president until elections can be held. To date, several key groups, including powerful Kurdish factions and the anti-intervention National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, have refused to offer their support to the SOC and its leaders. Some observers suggest that, in political terms, the National Coalition does not differ substantially from the SNC, since Coalition representatives include many SNC members, and few non-SNC groups. State Department officials report that in spite of persistent differences of opinion, the members and leaders of the SOC have demonstrated some ability to overcome disputes and forge consensus. Whether or not the SOC will maintain unity, attract new supporters, and establish its authority in Syria remains to be seen. The Supreme Military Command Council (SMC) has endorsed the SOC, but some reports suggest that its leadership may have rejected Hitto’s election. Units fighting under the SMC banner inside Syria appear to hold varying views on the SOC initiative and leadership.10 At present, the exact nature of the relationship between the leadership of the SMC and the civilianled SOC is unclear and civilian oversight of opposition military activities appears far from certain. Several non-SMC armed groups have not backed the SOC, and some Islamist groups may be directly hostile to efforts to further empower the Coalition. Many Syria analysts report that Islamist militia groups, especially members of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front and Syrian Islamic Front, remain the most capable armed groups on the ground. In February and April 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged new U.S. support to the SOC and local opposition groups inside Syria as a means of increasing the opposition’s capacity and credibility. Through early April, the Obama Administration and Congress had repurposed $117 million to support opposition groups and provide assistance in opposition-controlled areas of Syria, with a further $123 million pledged on April 21 (See “U.S. Assistance” below). Current policy debates focus on whether the SOC is a credible partner and whether and how the United States should empower the SOC to better coordinate humanitarian aid and the delivery of local services in order to increase its influence inside the country. U.S. officials and international assistance implementers report that the SOC does not yet have the capacity to deliver assistance inside Syria, in spite of the recent establishment of its Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU). Instead, local revolutionary councils, relief committees, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent often oversee the delivery of aid by third parties, with local councils taking responsibility for the reestablishment and provision of services. Persistent SOC demands for more forceful intervention and robust lethal support may increase the pressure on U.S. and European policy makers to revisit the limits they have imposed on military support to the uprising. 9 Hitto is regarded as an Islamist by some secular opposition members and, while he is of Kurdish descent, the leading Kurdish rebel faction in northeastern Syria has rejected his election and remains outside the SOC framework. Ten members of the SOC, including secular female activist and SOC Vice President Suhair Atassi, temporarily suspended their membership in the SOC in response to Hitto’s election. 10 In December, a number of brigades unified under the umbrella of a Supreme Military Command Council (SMC) headed by General Salim Idriss, a former Asad regime military commander who defected. The SMC administers regional commands with affiliated units nominally reporting through a chain of command to General Idriss. For more background and analysis, see Elizabeth O'Bagy, The Free Syrian Army, Institute for the Study of War, March 24, 2013; and, Koert Debeuf and Aron Lund, “The Free Syrian Army Does Exist,” Syria Comment (blog), March 19, 2013. Congressional Research Service 7 Figure 2. Syrian Opposition Groups: Relationships and Factions Source: CRS Graphics, Syrian opposition social media and websites. Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Figure 3. Profiles of Select Opposition Groups and Militias Source: CRS. Derived from U.S. government Open Source Center reports, social media, and official statements. The positions, sizes, platforms, and membership of groups are subject to change. Congressional Research Service 7 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Figure 4. Profiles of Select Opposition Groups and Militias Source: CRS. Derived from U.S. government Open Source Center reports, social media, and independent analyst reports. The positions, sizes, platforms, and membership of groups are subject to change. Congressional Research Service 8 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress U.S.-Syrian relations have been contentious for decades, but traditional U.S. concerns are now being amplified and overshadowed by the pressing need to address new threats. Since the uprising began, the Obama Administration has pursued a strategy that actively seeks President Asad’s resignation or removal; relies on partnership with regional and international actors to achieve that goal; and is buttressed by U.S. diplomatic, financial and humanitarian support to opposition groups and civilians. Members of Congress have debated the relative merits of the Administration’s approach alongside recurring proposals for direct U.S. military intervention or the expansion of U.S. support to opposition groups to include direct provision of weapons, ammunition, and training. Some proposed legislation introduced in the 113th Congress (S. 617/H.R. 1327) would authorize the President, under certain conditions and with various reporting and certification requirements, to supply nonlethal and/or lethal support to opposition groups in Syria. (see Appendix A). Options for military intervention continue to be debated, with advocates of different options apparently disagreeing on strategic priorities. Those seeking a rapid end to the current conflict might favor the use of U.S. airpower to degrade the Syrian military’s remaining capabilities. However, such an approach would not immediately resolve security issues inside Syria or prevent fighting among opposition forces and regime remnants. Those seeking a more limited civilian protection mission might prioritize the establishment and defense of enclaves/buffer zones in northern or southern Syria where displaced persons can seek shelter and assistance and where opposition groups can operate, train, and launch continuing operations against the Asad regime. It is unclear whether such zones could be adequately defended without the use of ground forces or the placement of air defense equipment inside Syria. Still others with discrete concerns about Syrian unconventional and conventional weapons stocks or non-state groups active in Syria might advocate for a limited military operation targeting key weapons- and terrorist-related sites, entities, or individuals. Such operations might eliminate individual threats but would not alleviate wider humanitarian concerns or improve general security conditions. Each of these objectives may have different diplomatic and strategic implications, and each of the corresponding military approaches may have differing degrees of risk, feasibility, and cost. The FY2013 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-239) incorporated a Senate amendment (S.Amdt. 3262 amended S. 3254) to require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to congressional defense committees identifying options to “deny or significantly degrade” the Syrian military’s ability to use air power against civilians and opposition. Specifically, the report would require an assessment of the deployment of air defense systems, the establishment of no-fly zones over Syrian population centers, limited air strikes, or “other military activities.” President Obama has remained reluctant to endorse military intervention proposals to date and Administration officials have cited a number of reasons, including fears of exacerbating the violence and risking regional spillover; the absence of U.N. Security Council authorization for intervention; and the Syrian opposition’s continued divisions over the issue. Polling suggests a lack of U.S. domestic political support for more robust action. Other foreign policy priorities have also influenced the Administration’s position, including U.S. efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program. Asad’s departure could be a major set-back for Iran, but the Administration also seeks to maintain pressure on Iran through sanctions and diplomacy, and may fear that U.S. intervention would unravel the limited consensus it has built with Russia, China, and others. Congressional Research Service 9 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Critics of the Administration, including some Members of Congress, charge that U.S. hesitation to intervene militarily to protect Syrian civilians and/or help oust the Asad government has unnecessarily prolonged the fighting. Over time, critics argue, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, violent extremist groups have seized the initiative, and Syria’s neighbors, including several U.S. partners, have been threatened. Others have argued that by failing to halt fighting in Syria, the United States and others are exacerbating already volatile Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions throughout Middle East, which poses risks to other strategically important countries. Finally, some critics argue that U.S. credibility is being diminished by Asad’s refusal to step down or end abuses of civilians despite U.S. demands. U.S. Assistance In FY2012 and FY2013 the United States has provided a total of more than $384.5 million for humanitarian activities both inside Syria and in neighboring countries.11 The United States has made humanitarian assistance contributions in response to U.N. appeals and supports projects outside of the U.N. system.12 U.S. humanitarian assistance has been drawn from global accounts, including the International Disaster Assistance (IDA), Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA), and P.L. 480-Title II accounts. On April 5, the State Department notified Congress of its intent to repurpose $220 million in FY2012 Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Funds to increase the FY2012 IDA and MRA account balances for additional humanitarian assistance for Syrians. Section 1707(e) of P.L. 113-6, the FY2013 continuing resolution included increased account totals for the IDA and MRA accounts, which improves the Administration’s ability to meet future Syria-related needs with FY2013 funds. To date, the President has used emergency authority for unanticipated contingencies in Section 451 of the Foreign Assistance Act to identify and repurpose Overseas Contingency Operations funds and Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Funds to provide $54 million in nonlethal support to unarmed opposition groups. Most recently, the Administration notified Congress in March 2013 of its intent to reprogram an additional $63 million in OCO funds and use Section 451 authority to further enhance the capabilities of the Syrian Opposition Coalition and local opposition councils inside Syria. In April 2013, the President invoked drawdown authority to provide food and medical assistance to armed opposition elements. The Administration and Congress have repurposed $300 million for Syria-related budget support to Jordan’s government. Policy debates about U.S. humanitarian and opposition assistance have increasingly focused on whether the United States is receiving adequate political benefit from its assistance efforts. Anecdotal evidence from field reports and aid implementers suggests that many Syrians who may be receiving U.S. assistance remain unaware of its origins, and that the general perception among opposition groups is that the United States remains wary of providing assistance to rebels because of fears of aiding extremist groups.13 In response, some Members of Congress and outside observers have argued that the United States should begin to more aggressively “brand” U.S. aid to enhance local perception that the people of the United States stand in solidarity with Syrians. 11 Cited funds have been provided in FY2012 and FY2013 and include previously appropriated funds. For more information or analysis, contact Rhoda Margesson, CRS Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy, (ext. 7-0425, 12 For full details, see USAID, Syria–Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #12, March 28, 2013. 13 CRS Specialist’s meetings with U.S. government grantees and Syrian opposition activists, 2013. Congressional Research Service 10 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Humanitarian assistance implementers express concern that the so-called branding of aid delivered into Syria as “American” or “foreign” may make aid personnel and recipients targets of attacks by hostile extremists or Syrian government forces. Some proposed legislation introduced in the 113th Congress would require branding of U.S. assistance for Syrians, with some exceptions for the safety of those delivering assistance and consideration of the successful achievement of U.S. policy objectives (see Appendix A). Newly notified U.S. assistance programs seek to create a grant-making mechanism that would allow the SOC to support the local efforts of councils, without creating duplicative arrangements. The feasibility and political consequences of this approach remain to be determined. Some aid delivery organizations and outside observers argue that traditional principles of impartiality and neutrality should continue to govern all humanitarian assistance delivery and programs seeking the improvement of local services. Some Syrians may regard efforts to channel assistance via the SOC-ACU as an attempt to assert political control over the funds and programs of other groups. Local opposition groups reportedly are very sensitive to the duplication or manipulation of aid delivery efforts to boost the political profile of exile opposition groups or foreign governments. Arms, Intervention, and Syria’s Opposition: Changes in U.S. Policy? As of April 2013, several factors reportedly are motivating the Obama Administration to consider further changes to its Syria policy, in the wake of recent increases in financial and material support to the political and armed opposition.14 These factors include recent rebel gains on the ground, the establishment of an interim governing authority under the auspices of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, fears about chemical weapons proliferation, and the conflict’s spiraling humanitarian toll. To date, the U.S. government has remained reluctant to directly arm Syrian rebel fighters due to concerns that doing so might undermine U.S. interests by exacerbating the conflict, risking arms transfers to terrorist groups, or creating opportunities for the illegal or morally objectionable use of U.S. weaponry. Critics of intervention and arms supply proposals highlight potential risks of a security vacuum in Syria as well as risks related to arming fractious opposition forces that may include groups with extremist views or individuals who have committed human rights abuses. Obama Administration officials have acknowledged that the United States is providing noncombatant elements of the Syrian opposition with non-lethal assistance, such as medical supplies, food, communications equipment, and training.15 Press sources subsequently reported that President Obama reportedly issued a “Presidential Finding” permitting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other U.S. government agencies to provide unspecified support to Syrian rebel groups, including armed fighters.16 Unverified press reports allege that U.S. intelligence officers located in southern Turkey and Jordan are vetting rebel groups for ties to known terrorist 14 In late November 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commented on recent U.S. support for the opposition, stating “we’re going to carefully consider what more we can do.” 15 Such aid reportedly includes tools to circumvent Internet censorship, such as anonymizing software and satellite phones with GPS capabilities. According to another report, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has “supplied encryption-enabled communications gear to opposition groups, presumably enabling the United States to monitor their talks.” CRS cannot verify these reports. See, “US Provides Communications Aid for Syria Opponents,” Agence France Presse, June 14, 2012; “In Syria Conflict, U.S. Struggles to Fill Intelligence Gaps,” Washington Post, July 23, 2012. 16 Reuters, “Obama Authorizes Secret US Support for Syrian Rebels,” August 1, 2012. Congressional Research Service 11 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response organizations, helping to coordinate the delivery of lethal aid to select groups, gathering intelligence on opposition networks, and establishing relationships with fighters likely to be influential as the conflict continues or in its aftermath.17 One report also states that Administration has debated whether to provide rebels with satellite imagery and intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements.18 CRS cannot verify these reports. As with debates over possible military intervention, proposals for the expansion of financial aid or lethal assistance to Syrian groups may raise a number of questions for potential congressional oversight and engagement. Specific proposals may have implications for long-standing debates about the respective constitutional and statutory war powers and foreign affairs authorities of Congress and the President.19 Proposals may also reinvigorate debate over the utility of and/or moral imperative for military intervention as a means to protect civilians and secure other U.S. interests.20 Such debates also occurred during the 112th Congress’s consideration of the 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya. Key Security Issues Al Qaeda, Extremism, and Foreign Fighters In early 2012, U.S. officials stated that the violence and disorder paralyzing Syria was creating opportunities for Al Qaeda operatives and other violent Islamist extremists to infiltrate the country and conduct or plan attacks. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “Sunni extremists” had infiltrated Syrian opposition groups, which may be unaware of the infiltration. As of April 2013, Sunni extremist groups appear to be increasingly active in Syria, including groups sympathetic to or affiliated with Al Qaeda. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, extremist militias are present in 13 of Syria’s 14 provinces “and are starting to establish municipal services, provide humanitarian aid, food, hospitals and sharia law courts.”21 Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), released a statement in April 2013 proclaiming a merger with the Nusra Front (Jabhat al Nusra li Ahl al Sham, Support Front for the People of Syria),22 although a reported Nusra leader downplayed any merger and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. 17 Other reports state that U.S. intelligence officers, in conjunction with foreign governments, also may be helping the opposition develop logistical routes for moving supplies into Syria. Reuters, “Obama Authorizes Secret US Support for Syrian Rebels,” August 1, 2012; and, “U. S. Stepping Up Efforts To Organize Syria Rebels,” Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2012. 18 “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, June 21, 2012. 19 In August 2012, Congress enacted legislation clearly stating that the legislation was not intended to constitute a declaration of war on Syria or an authorization of the use of force against Syria. Section 604 of P.L. 112-158 (the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012) states, “Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria.” 20 Debate over protecting civilians reflects differences of opinion between those who embrace the principle of a socalled “responsibility to protect” and those who argue that such protection, while admirable and even desirable in some contexts, should not be endorsed in general terms because it may conflict with other U.S. interests, such as maintaining regional stability, avoiding unintended consequences of military action, and avoiding precedents that compromise future flexibility of action. 21 Testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Senate Armed Services Committee, April 18, 2013. 22 The Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for several high profile attacks, including attacks using suicide bombers and car bombs. An individual named Abu Mohammed Joulani reportedly leads the group, with strategic guidance from (continued...) Congressional Research Service 12 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Other prominent armed Salafist groups include members of the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF),23 the Saquour al Sham brigades, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades,24 the Ummah Brigade (Liwa al Umma),25 and the Islam Brigade (Liwa al Islam).26 The Free Ones of the Levant Battalions (Kata’ib Ahrar al Sham) and other members of the SIF use jihadist rhetoric in some statements. Islamist fighters in the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF) rejected the reported merger of ISI and Al Nusra. The Lebanon-based extremist group Fatah al Islam has released a number of statements on the conflict and members of the group have been reported to be fighting in Syria. Fighters from Hezbollah in Lebanon also are reportedly fighting in Syria on behalf of the Asad government. Press reports and anecdotal accounts suggest that there may be competition for influence among extremist groups and that they have lacked overarching coordination or shared leadership. The formation of the SIF and Syrian Islamic Liberation Front in late 2012 and early 2013 may signal increasing cooperation among like-minded Islamist militia groups. Experts consider the SIF to hold more hard-line views about the imposition of sharia law and members of its constituent militias may hold more hostile views toward the United States and Israel. In December 2012, the Obama Administration designated the Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and as an alias of Al Qaeda in Iraq pursuant to Executive Order 13224. The Iraqi government had previously expressed specific concern that individuals associated with Al Qaeda in Iraq have travelled to Syria and are using the conflict there to their advantage.27 Reactions from some Syrian opposition leaders and armed groups were negative. Several armed groups made statements of solidarity with Al Nusra, and prominent civilian figures, including then-President Khateeb of the SOC, requested that the U.S. government reconsider the designation. According to the U.S. State Department designation announcement, “Al Nusra has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by Al Qaeda in Iraq to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.” The conflict in Syria has provoked a visceral public response in the region and is encouraging some people to make donations to support the Syrian uprising or travel to Syria to support the armed opposition. Some conservative Sunni clerics have issued religious edicts characterizing the (...continued) Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Du’a. OSC Feature FEA20120314027051, “Video Production Announces Establishment of Jihadist ‘Al Nusrah Front’ in Syria,” January 24, 2012; and, Office of the State Department Spokesperson, “Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa'ida in Iraq,” Washington, DC, December 11, 2012. 23 See Aron Lund, Syria’s Salafi Insurgents: the Rise of the Syrian Islamic Front, UI Occasional Paper 17, March 2013. 24 A Saudi-national named Majed al Majed reportedly leads the Azzam Brigades. OSC Report GMP20120626966212, “Al-Qaeda in Syria: New Leader at the Helm,” Al Akhbar (Lebanon), June 26, 2012. 25 OSC Report GMP20120625125003, “Statement by New Al Ummah Brigade in Syria Promises ‘Jihad’ Until Victory,” June 18, 2012. 26 OSC Report GMP20120719125001, “Liwa al-Islam Brigades Claims Responsibility for Damascus Bombings,” July 19, 2012. 27 Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyam Zebari said, “We have solid information and intelligence that members of Al Qaeda’s terrorist network have gone to Syria.” Al Jazeera English, “Iraq says al-Qaeda flowing into Syria,” July 5, 2012. On July 21, Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi released an audiotape expressing support for the Syrian “jihad” and arguing for the importance of “applying the sharia, uniting the umma by demolishing the borders implemented by the Sykes-Picot [agreement], eradicating filthy nationalism and hated patriotism, and bringing back the Islamic state, the state that does not recognize artificial boundaries and does not believe in any nationality other than Islam.” OSC Report GMP20120721586002, “Islamic State of Iraq Amir Calls on Sunni Tribes To ‘Repent,’” July 21, 2012. Congressional Research Service 13 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response fighting as a “defensive jihad” and endorsing the provision of material support to fighters and direct participation in the fighting.28 Al Qaeda leaders Ayman al Zawahiri and the late Abu Yahya al Libi also released statements in 2012 urging support for Syrian fighters.29 In April 2013, Al Qaeda figures released a statement from Zawahiri calling for fighters in Syria to establish a “jihadist Islamic state.” European and Middle Eastern media have published estimates of the number of volunteers in the low to mid-hundreds, along with anecdotal reports about individuals from Europe, North Africa, Turkey, the Gulf states, and the Levant.30 Northern Lebanon and the Turkish border with northern Syria appear to be the most popular transit points for volunteers, presumably because of better regional air-travel linkages with Beirut and Turkish cities. Statements from some armed groups indicate that their leaders are cognizant of the risks that certain tactics and rhetoric may pose (i.e., suicide bombing or attacks against civilians). The underlying incompatibility of different groups’ motives and intentions is difficult to ignore, particularly to the extent that some extremist groups are critical of other armed groups and may oppose efforts to establish democracy in any post-Asad Syria. The pro-sharia rhetoric and transnational orientation of some extremist groups make it possible that they may end up in conflict with secular, nationalist, or Islamist opposition elements. The prominent Syrian SalafistJihadist ideologue Abu Basir al Tartusi has openly rejected other jihadists’ criticism of the Free Syrian Army. While he is known for his own extremist views, even he has characterized some of the groups and individuals now active in Syria as “extremists” and “fanatics.”31 As noted above, reports from Syria suggest that fighters in some Salafist groups have heeded warnings about an overly divisive approach and are improving coordination with potential rivals. Securing Syrian Weapons Stockpiles Note: For detailed CRS analysis of chemical weapons stockpiles and related questions in Syria, see CRS Report R42848, Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress, coordinated by Mary Beth Nikitin. A primary concern for U.S. and other international policymakers is the Syrian military’s apparently waning control over large conventional and unconventional weapons stockpiles, including chemical weapons, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (MANPADs), surface-tosurface rockets, armored weapons, explosives, and small arms. In December 2012, U.S. officials reiterated public statements warning Syrian officials that the United States considers any use or 28 OSC Report GMP20120618125001, “Al Shinqiti Calls Jihad in Syria ‘Duty,’ Advocates Joining Al Nusrah Front,” July 6, 2012; OSC Analysis GMF20120706420001, “Syria—Salafis Possibly Eying Larger Role in Post-Al-Asad Syria,” July 6, 2012. 29 OSC Report GMP20120612405002, “Abu-Yahya al-Libi Urges Iraqi, Jordanian, Turkish Mujahidin ‘To Champion’ Syria,” June 12, 2012. 30 The National (Abu Dhabi) “Syria, Jihad And the Boys From Tunisia’s Ben Guerdane,” July 3, 2012; OSC Report GMP20120607648001, “ Says Jordan Charges 6 With Trying To Enter Syria To Wage Jihad,” (Doha), June 6, 2012; OSC Report EUP20120523029004, “Foreign Jihadis Flock To Syria in Bid To Overthrow Al Asad,” Le Figaro (Paris) May 22, 2012. 31 “Abu Basir al Tartusi” is the pen name of Abdel Moneim Mustafa Halimah. For more on this topic, see Aron Lund, “Holier Than Thou: Rival Clerics in the Syrian Jihad,” Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor, Volume: 10, Issue: 14 July 16, 2012. Congressional Research Service 14 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to be a “red line” and that contingency planning has taken place for an unspecified response to such a scenario. On August 20, President Obama said, We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus…. We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.32 On December 3, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama reiterated U.S. warnings, with Clinton stating that the use or transfer of chemical weapons is “a red line for the United States,”33 and President Obama saying, “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”34 Secretary of Defense Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 18, 2013, that more than $70 million in Cooperative Threat Reduction funds are being used to assist Syria's neighbors to bolster border defenses and prevent WMD proliferation from Syria. In July 2012, Syrian government spokesperson Jihad Maqdisi—who has since defected—said “any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used—and I repeat will never be used—during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments. These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression.” Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil rejected President Obama’s August statement and has accused Western powers of “looking for a pretext to intervene militarily.” In early December, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said, “Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people.” On March 19, 2013, the Syrian government accused rebels of firing a rocket or missile with chemical agents at government-controlled areas in Aleppo province; Opposition forces in turn asserted that the Asad regime was lying in order to cover up its own alleged use of “chemical rockets” that day against rebel forces east of the capital. There have been numerous unsubstantiated rebel accusations against alleged Syrian government usage of chemical agents in the war. In order to ascertain the truth, a team of United Nations experts charged with investigating these allegations was deployed to Cyprus and is awaiting Syrian government permission to enter the country. However, the Asad regime only wants a U.N. investigation to focus on government claims of alleged chemical weapons usage. In response, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has demanded “unfettered access” to all alleged sites, saying, “I urge the Syrian government to be more flexible, so that this mission can be deployed as fast as possible.... We are ready, it is a matter of time.” Russia opposes the investigation of rebel claims. Since the crisis began in 2011, U.S. and Israeli officials have publicly communicated their assessments of and concerns about the extent, security, and potential unrest-related implications 32 Statement by President Obama, White House, Washington, DC, August 20, 2012. Statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Prague, Czech Republic, December 3, 2012. 34 Statement by President Obama, National Defense University, Washington, DC, December 3, 2012. 33 Congressional Research Service 15 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response of Syria’s unconventional weapons programs and stockpiles. U.S. officials have expressed confidence that they have a reliable estimate of the quantities and locations of Syrian chemical weapons and have indicated that the “extensive network” of related facilities is being monitored “very closely” via unspecified means.35 Since late 2011, named and unnamed Israeli officials have voiced similar concerns about “huge stockpiles”36 of chemical weapons in Syria and have warned that Israel will consider any indication that the Asad regime is transferring WMD materials to Hezbollah or other non-state actors to be an act of war.37 NATO, Russia, and several other countries have underscored their intention to hold the Asad government responsible for its actions with regard to chemical weapons. Open source reporting on Syria’s chemical weapons program suggests that nerve gas and mustard gas production and storage infrastructure is concentrated at facilities in and around Al Safira (southeast of Aleppo), Damascus, Hamah, Latakia, and Homs.38 Stockpiles also may be dispersed in other military locations around the country, and some reports suggested that the Syrian government may have moved or consolidated chemical weapons-related materials in order to better guarantee their security. As the recent discovery of undeclared chemical weapons material in Libya has shown, there are limits to the ability of international intelligence agencies and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to understand and verify the extent of sensitive WMD programs, even when dealing with countries that have ratified international conventions on WMD—which Syria has not.39 The Asad regime likely places greater emphasis on ensuring the loyalty of military units involved in guarding elements of WMD programs because of the weapons’ relevance as a potential deterrent against foreign attack. In the wake of any sudden regime collapse, efforts to find and secure stockpiles would be both a high priority and a difficult challenge. Neighboring intelligence services in Turkey, Jordan, and Israel may have useful insight on the extent of these programs and related security challenges. Elements of the Syrian military may be in a position to aid in securing materials and sites in the event of regime change, but it remains unclear whether an orderly or chaotic transition situation might ensue and whether such units would be cooperative or antagonistic toward outsiders. 35 On July 18, 2012, U.S. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said, “We’re closely monitoring their proliferation-sensitive materials. We don’t have any indication that those specific munitions are not under Syrian Government control at this time, but we’re monitoring it very closely.” In February 2012, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller said, “We have ideas as to quantity. We have ideas as to where they are.” Quoted in Lachlan Carmichael, “U.S. concerned about Syrian chemical arms, missiles,” Agence France Presse (AFP), February 15, 2012. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper referred to an extensive network of Syrian chemical weapons facilities in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 16, 2012. See also Jay Solomon and Adam Entous, “U.S. Steps Up Watch of Syria Chemical Weapons,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2012; and, Jay Solomon, “U.S., Israel Monitor Suspected Syrian WMD,” Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2011. 36 Major-General Amir Eshel, head of the Israeli military’s planning division, quoted in “Israel Fears Syrian ‘Chemical, Biological’ Weapons,” NOW Lebanon, January 17, 2012. 37 U.S. Open Source Center Report GMP20120201736004, “Israeli Official: Chemical Weapons From Syria to Hizballah ‘Declaration of War,’” Yisra'el Hayom (Tel Aviv), February 1, 2012. 38 Rachel Oswald, “U.S. Watching Syrian Chemical Arms Amid Fear of Attack, Diversion,” Global Security Newswire, December 5, 2011. 39 Syria has signed but not ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Syria has not signed or ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Congressional Research Service 16 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Existing U.S. government authorities and funding sources for addressing emergency proliferation risks are discussed below. According to some press reports, internal U.S. government assessments estimate that as many as 75,000 military personnel could be required to fully secure various WMD-related sites in Syria.40 One report suggests that due to the age and probable poor condition of Syria’s chemical stockpiles, any international effort to dispose of the weapons could take years and significant numbers of troops for force protection around chemical depots.41 Outlook and Future Policy Considerations for Congress As the situation in Syria remains fluid and unresolved, U.S. policymakers must simultaneously plan for a possible political transition and reconstruction or civil war of unpredictable duration. Ambassador Robert Ford outlined four main concerns that guide current U.S. policy when he testified before Congress in April 2013: “…there are, I think, four key things that we're working towards. First and foremost, we do not want Syria's very large stock of chemical weapons to be used or to fall into the hands of terrorist groups. Second, we do not want Syria to become a base for terrorist operations. In addition, it needs to be a source of stability in the region more broadly. And the large refugee flows out of Syria are actually straining the neighboring states now and, in particular, straining Jordan and Lebanon but to a lesser extent Turkey and Iraq. And we do not think that these things can be achieved without a political transition, a negotiated political transition. If we don't have a negotiated transition, Senator, our view is that the move towards fragmentation in Syria will continue…”42 Also in April 2013, DNI Clapper stated in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that, “The most likely scenario that we see is even after Assad falls, there's probably more fractionization (sic), if I can use that word, both geographically and on a sectarian basis. That for some period of time, we're not sure, but at least a year, year and a half, there would be continued inter-sectoral competition and fighting, which will be very localized.”43 Regardless of the outcome Syria is likely to face a humanitarian crisis bereft of state services and security. The prospect of a prolonged security vacuum is of particular concern, as radical Islamist militias or Iranian proxies could become more firmly entrenched, acquire more sophisticated weaponry, assert control over territory, and threaten U.S. interests. The potential proliferation or use of chemical weapons from Syria’s multiple stockpiles also is of major concern to U.S. officials. Additionally, multiple reports indicate the danger of increased spillover violence along Syria’s borders with Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. Administration officials and Members of Congress may choose to discuss alternate scenarios and relevant funding and authorization needs in anticipation of the prolonged crisis facing Syria and its neighbors. 40 Barbara Starr, “Military: Thousands of troops needed to secure Syrian chemical sites,”, February 22, 2012. The President restated established U.S. policy. On July 18, 2012, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “We’ve made very clear to [the Syrian government] that they have a responsibility to safeguard their chemical sites and that we will hold them responsible should anything happen with regards to those sites.” See Secretary Panetta Remarks with United Kingdom Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, July 18, 2012; and, Remarks by the President to the White House Press Corps, August 20, 2012. 41 “Seizing Syrian chemical arms could take 75,000 troops,” International Herald Tribune, November 17, 2012. 42 Testimony of Ambassador Robert Ford, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 11, 2013. 43 Testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, April 11, 2013. Congressional Research Service 17 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Possible Appropriations and Authorization Issues44 In considering and preparing for possible scenarios in Syria, Members of Congress might consider current and likely future requests for appropriations and authorization from the Administration. Syria’s economic situation was difficult prior to the conflict, and the Obama Administration expects that security and reconstruction costs in Syria will be considerable and will require international contributions.45 International organizations are already identifying shortfalls in funding and material to respond to the humanitarian needs of Syrians affected by the conflict, and those needs, along with reconstruction costs, could drastically increase if fighting worsens and persists. Given U.S. national security concerns about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and the regional security effects of conflict and potential regime change in Syria, it seems likely that engagement between Congress and the Administration will continue to focus on those areas. However, as part of a transition or negotiated settlement, the U.S. government could be asked to financially support the repatriation or resettlement of Syrian refugees or to provide economic assistance to Syria through contributions at future donors’ conferences and/or through international financial institutions. The United Nations, NATO, or the Arab League could be asked to fund, staff, and equip an international peacekeeping or monitoring operation inside Syria. Congress may choose to define authorization criteria and identify potential funds for U.S. contributions to such operations, including through reviewing current recurring obligations in the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) or Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) accounts. Existing Restrictions and Authorities Syria is among those states explicitly designated in the FY2012 foreign operations appropriation act (Division I of P.L. 112-74; 125 Stat. 1164) as being prohibited from receiving direct aid (§7007; 125 Stat. 1195). However, a number of provisions in that law could make funds available “notwithstanding” other provisions within that law or other laws, including funds for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, demining and related programs (125 Stat. 1185), foreign military financing as it applies to demining (125 Stat. 1187), contingency funds (§7034(f); 125 Stat. 1214), and democracy promotion (§7034(h); 125 Stat. 1214). The President also is granted special authority, under Section 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, to “authorize the furnishing of assistance without regard to any provision of this Act, the Arms Export Control Act, any law relating to receipts and credits accruing to the United States, and any Act authorizing or appropriating funds for use under this Act” if he finds it is “important to the security interests of the United States” and so notifies Congress. Under this provision, the President could make available up to $50 million in a given fiscal year to Syria. The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also is authorized to 44 CRS Specialist in Foreign Policy Legislation Dianne Rennack (ext. 7-7608) contributed to this section. On August 15, 2012, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “Syria is not Iraq. It doesn’t have that great, vast natural wealth. And depending on how long this goes on, we are already seeing a lot of the economic underpinnings of Syria’s prosperity at risk from this fighting. So there’s going to have to be a serious rebuilding job that will be Syrian-led obviously, but the international community has to be ready to support, so we’re beginning to think about those things.” 45 Congressional Research Service 18 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response provide agricultural commodities to meet emergency food needs “notwithstanding any other provision of law” pursuant to Title II of P.L. 480. Securing Weapons Supplies and Sites46 There are two existing authorities and likely sources of funding for U.S. government programs that could be used for efforts to secure or dismantle Syrian weapons of mass destruction or advanced conventional weapons in an emergency scenario. The State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) has authority to spend funds “notwithstanding any other provision of law” and is authorized to work in states outside the former Soviet Union.47 The Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program has “notwithstanding” authority for use of a limited amount of CTR funds in an emergency situation, including outside the former Soviet Union.48 Addressing Syria’s State Sponsor of Terrorism Status The Administration and Congress may wish to discuss ways to address Syria’s legal status as a state sponsor of international terrorism in anticipation of any need to provide foreign assistance to a transitional Syrian government. Similarly, the designation of the Al Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and pursuant to E.O. 13224 may complicate U.S.-funded operations in areas under Al Nusra influence or control. Syria has long been identified as a sponsor of terrorism for the purposes of Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979. This status reflects long-standing Syrian government support for Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups. It remains unclear how any post-Asad government might relate to those groups and other U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations. Since Syria has long been identified as a sponsor of terrorism for the purposes of Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the President may be required to either issue a national security waiver to provide certain types of assistance to a post-Asad Syrian government or to remove Syria’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in consultation with Congress. Section 620A affords the President two options to remove a terrorist designation: (1) he may immediately remove a designation if there is a “fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government” of the targeted country, and that government does not support acts of terrorism and has provided assurances that it will not in the future; or (2) he may remove a designation for a government after 45 days if that government has not supported international 46 Prepared by CRS Specialist in Nonproliferation Mary Beth Nikitin, ext. 7-7745. The FY2003 Consolidated Appropriations Resolution (P.L. 108-7) authorized the Department of State to use the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) “for such countries other than the Independent States of the former Soviet Union and international organizations when it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so.” Appropriated NDF funds remain available until expended. 48 The “notwithstanding” authority has not been exercised since it was first authorized in Section 1305 of the FY2010 Defense Authorization bill (P.L. 111-84). Available funds are limited to ten percent of total CTR appropriations. Required determination and notification provisions would necessitate the concurrence of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Energy. Notification of how funds will be spent must be submitted to the foreign affairs, appropriations and armed services committees. The law requires that funds are used for threats “arising from the proliferation of chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons or weapons-related materials, technologies, and expertise” that must be addressed urgently; and that “certain provisions of law would unnecessarily impede the Secretary’s ability to carry out activities of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program of the Department of Defense to address such threats” (i.e., notwithstanding authority is necessary). 47 Congressional Research Service 19 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response terrorism for a period of six months and has made assurances to not provide such support in the future. The President is also authorized to provide assistance pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 regardless of the terrorism designation in the following instances: He may make assistance available for health and disease prevention programs, including funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria treatment and prevention efforts (Section 104(c)(4)); he may provide up to $25 million in any fiscal year for unanticipated contingencies (Section 451); and to some extent he may fund international narcotics control and anticrime programs (Sections 481, 491, respectively). Furthermore, he may furnish defense articles or services in exchange for “necessary or strategic raw material” if he finds it in the U.S. national interest to do so (Section 663). Under Sections 571 and 582 of the act, the President has broad authority to provide anti-terrorism and nonproliferation assistance to foreign countries notwithstanding other provisions of law, with the exception of human rights and terrorism related restrictions in Section 502B and 620A of the act. Section 620A would restrict the provision of such assistance, in addition to peacekeeping assistance under Section 551 of the act, without a national security waiver. Given the time and certification requirements for removing the designation, it is likely the Administration would seek authorization for the provision of such assistance through such a waiver. Given the time and certification requirements for rescinding the designation of a state sponsor of international terrorism, the President may seek separate, superseding authorization from Congress for the provision of assistance to Syria, issue a national security waiver of terrorism related restrictions, or invoke existing notwithstanding authorities included in current foreign operations appropriations legislation. The Bush Administration sought and Congress granted separate authorization for Iraq in 2003 for similar reasons: President Bush rescinded Iraq’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism in May 2003 under authority granted by Congress in supplemental appropriations legislation.49 Possible Questions for Oversight Possible questions that Congress may wish to consider in light of recent developments include: • What should be the overarching goals of U.S. policy toward Syria? To protect civilians? To further the opposition cause of removing President Asad from power? To secure chemical weapons and prevent extremist groups from taking hold? Can these aims be separated in principle? On the ground? • What might follow Asad’s departure? Would a negotiated solution that preserved elements of the current government be acceptable to the United States? Why or why not? 49 President Bush rescinded Iraq’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism pursuant to Section 1503 of P.L. 108-11 by issuing a memorandum to the Secretaries of State and Commerce and notifying Congress. Section 1503 states “that the President may make inapplicable with respect to Iraq Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 or any other provision of law that applies to countries that have supported terrorism. …provided further that the President shall submit a notification 5 days prior to exercising any of the authorities described in this section to the Committee on Appropriations of each House of the Congress, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives.” See President George W. Bush, Message to the Congress Reporting the Declaration of a National Emergency With Respect to the Development Fund for Iraq, May 22, 2003. Congressional Research Service 20 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response • What authorities and appropriated funds might the Administration seek under various scenarios? How can existing authorities and appropriations be used to respond to various needs? What is the Administration’s view with regard to addressing Syria’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism in the event of Asad’s departure? • How are other countries responding to the crisis? Who is willing and able to implement humanitarian or military intervention proposals? On what authority? With what specific resources or forces, for what period, and at what cost? How might direct or indirect military intervention affect ongoing relief and diplomacy initiatives? • What potential risks and unintended consequences may stem from various intervention proposals? What are the potential risks and consequences of opting not to intervene? How will regional security be affected? • What signals might suggest that a collapse of the Syrian regime is imminent? What signals might suggest that the current pattern of conflict by attrition will persist? What developments could trigger direct intervention by regional actors, and how should the United States respond to intervention? • What political and security fault lines exist among Syrian opposition groups and how might various scenarios affect prospects for conflict or cooperation between them? • What role are extremist groups playing in the violence and what might their future role be in Syria if the conflict ends? How can the United States best limit opportunities for violent extremist groups to take advantage of continued conflict or regime change in Syria? • How can the United States prevent the use, theft, or transfer of Syria’s unconventional weapons? How can the United States and its allies prepare to secure and limit the proliferation of conventional weapons stockpiles in Syria, including missiles? • How should the United States respond to the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people and address the impact of Syrian refugees on neighboring countries? • What steps should the United States take in its engagement with Syrian opposition groups and regional actors to increase the likelihood of a post-conflict transition process that will lead to stability for Syria and the region? Are secular and Islamist Syrian opposition groups likely to prove hostile to Israel? How might regime change affect prospects for a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement? How likely are Syrian Kurds to remain at odds with Turkey and Syrian Arabs? • What steps is the Administration taking to ensure that the policies of U.S. assistance recipients with regard to weapons of mass destruction, weapons proliferation, terrorism, and human rights are compatible with U.S. goals and interests? How credible are opposition leaders’ commitments on these issues? • What are the risks of additional spillover violence in Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, and Jordan, and what steps should the United States take to eliminate or minimize these risks? Would a greater spread of violence across borders change the U.S. calculus regarding military intervention? If so, please explain how. Congressional Research Service 21 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Legislation introduced in the 113th Congress related to Syria is summarized in Appendix A. Legislation introduced in the 113th Congress related to Syria is summarized in Appendix B. Table D-1 in Appendix D summarizes U.S. sanctions activity since the start of the uprising in March 2011. Congressional Research Service 22 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Appendix A. Syria Legislation in the 113th Congress Bills • S. 617, the Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013, a bill that would state that it is the policy of the United States – “to support civilians and innocent victims of the conflict in Syria”; “that the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) is the sole and legitimate representative of the Syrian people”; “…to support the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) efforts to establish a transitional government”; and, “to affirm that the end of the Assad regime is in the national security interests of the United States.” The bill would authorize the President, "notwithstanding any other provision of law" to furnish assistance “on such terms and conditions as the President may determine” for a series of stated purposes. Would require U.S. economic assistance to be marked “From the American People” with some exceptions. Would authorize the President, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” to “furnish assistance, and make contributions” to provide training and nonlethal support to armed elements of the Syrian opposition. Would authorize the President, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” to “conduct activities” in support of securing weapons in Syria. States the President should enact financial sanctions against entities facilitating “significant” arms sales to the Syrian government. Would require implementation reporting within 60 days. • H.R. 1327, the Free Syria Act of 2013, would authorize the President “notwithstanding any other provision of law, to provide such assistance as may be necessary for protection of populations affected by the conflict in Syria.” Section 205 of the bill states that, “Nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize the use of military force in Syria by the United States Armed Forces.” The bill would authorize the President “to make available such assistance as may be necessary to enhance the capacity, performance of Syrian opposition-allied local coordination committees.” Would authorize the transfer of any nondesignated foreign assistance account funds to “any humanitarian account” in order “to address needs arising as a result of the conflict in Syria.” Would require U.S. economic assistance to be marked “From the American People” with some exceptions. • Would authorize the President, notwithstanding any other provision of law, to direct the drawdown of defense articles, services, education, and training for eligible groups. Allows lethal assistance with required certification. Would prohibit provision of “anti-aircraft defensive systems” unless a “vital national security interest” waiver, certification, and report are issued. Would require notification of obligations to Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate. Would require the President to certify that military aid provided is “consistent with the maintenance of regional stability and with the overall security and stability of neighboring friends and allies.” Any anti-aircraft support would require an accompanying report detailing recipients, deployment, targets, risks and benefits. Entities failing to “demonstrate a commitment” to opposing and defeating Assad regime; “establishing a democratic, pluralistic, and peaceful Syria”; and securing and safeguarding WMD would be ineligible as are FTOs and SDGTs. States that Congressional Research Service 23 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response security assistance should be provided “to the maximum extent practicable” in accordance with current human rights provisions (22 U.S.C. 2378d). • Would authorize the President notwithstanding any other provision of law to establish a program with “a Syrian entity” to “secure, safeguard, disable, dismantle, transport out of Syria, or destroy chemical and biological weapons, their precursor and constituent parts and associated equipment, and establish verifiable safeguards against the proliferation of such weapons.” • Would authorize the President to provide democracy, economic and political stabilization, reconstruction, and reconciliation assistance after determining that the regime of Bashar al Assad is no longer in power, the U.S. government has recognized a transitional government, and that such a transitional government is not controlled by an FTO. Authorization would include “and notwithstanding any other provision of law.” • Would authorize the President to temporarily suspend for 3 month intervals the requirements of P.L. 108-75 and “any other provision of law relating to assistance, trade, finance, the provision of defense articles and defense services, and the issuance of visas to nationals of Syria” following a determination that a post-Assad government “is demonstrating a verifiable commitment” to ceasing terrorist support; preventing missile and WMD transfer; dismantling WMD programs, refraining from threatening U.S. national security, interests, and allies; respecting boundaries and sovereignty of neighbors; and upholding human rights. Would provide for two six month renewals pending “substantial progress” determinations. Would provide for additional renewals upon determination of achievement of security conditions and substantial progress on human rights Congressional Research Service 24 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Appendix B. Syria Legislation in the 112th Congress Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-158) • P.L. 112-158/H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, codifies the sanctions on Syria contained in E.O.13606 and includes in Title VII, “Sanctions with Respect to Human Rights Abuses in Syria.” This section directs the President to identify and impose specified sanctions on: (1) Syrian government officials or persons acting on behalf of that government who are responsible for or complicit in the commission of serious human rights abuses against Syrian citizens or their family members, regardless of whether such abuses occurred in Syria; (2) persons who knowingly transfer or facilitate the transfer of goods or technologies (weapons, surveillance technology, or technology to restrict free speech or the flow of information) that are likely to be used by Syria to commit human rights abuses against the Syrian people; and (3) persons who engage in censorship that prohibits, limits, or penalizes freedom of expression by Syrian citizens. Section 604 states, “Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria.” FY2013 Appropriations and Authorization Legislation • In report language accompanying H.R. 5857, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2013, appropriators note under the heading “Global and Regional Programs/ Middle East Response” that “The Committee is troubled by the ongoing violence in Syria and notes that funds under this heading should continue to be made available to assist the Syrian people. All funds for Syria are subject to the notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations, pursuant to section 7015(f) of this Act.” • In report language accompanying the Senate version of the bill, S. 3241, appropriators recommended $2 million for the National Endowment for Democracy programs in Syria. According to the report, “The Committee recognizes the comparative advantages of the NED in the promotion of democracy and human rights abroad, particularly given its status as an NGO, unparalleled experience in promoting freedom during the cold war, and continued ability to conduct programs in the most hostile political environments.” • House and Senate Amendments to H.R. 4310 and S. 3254, the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. See Amendments below. Bills • H.R. 2105, The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act of 2011—Stated that it shall be U.S. policy to fully implement and enforce sanctions against Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their proliferation activities and policies. Would have, among other things, prohibited U.S. nuclear Congressional Research Service 25 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response cooperation agreements and related export licenses and transfers of materials, services, and goods with a country that assists the nuclear program of Iran, North Korea, or Syria, or is transferring advanced conventional weapons to such countries. • H.R. 2106, The Syria Freedom Support Act—Would have, among other things, sanctioned the development of petroleum resources of Syria, the production of refined petroleum products in Syria, and the exportation of refined petroleum products to Syria. • H.R. 5993, The Syria Non-Intervention Act of 2012—Would have prohibited the use of funds available to the Department of Defense or an element of the intelligence community for the purpose of, or which would have the effect of supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Syria by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual. • S. 1048, The Iran, North Korea, and Syria Sanctions Consolidation Act of 2011— Amends the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act to include in the scope of such act a person that (1) acquired materials mined or extracted within North Korea’s territory or control; or (2) provided shipping services for the transportation of goods to or from Iran, North Korea, or Syria relating to such countries’ weapons of mass destruction programs, support for acts of international terrorism, or human rights abuses. Excludes from such provisions shipping services for emergency or humanitarian purposes. • S. 1472, The Syria Sanctions Act of 2011—would have denied companies that conduct business in Syria’s energy sector (investment, oil purchases, and sale of gasoline) access to U.S. financial institutions and required federal contractors to certify that they are not engaged in sanctionable activity. • S. 2034, Syria Human Rights Accountability Act of 2012—Would have imposed sanctions on persons who are responsible for or complicit in certain human rights abuses. Also would have prohibited procurement contracts with persons that export sensitive technology to Syria. • S. 2101, Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act of 2012—Would have imposed, among other things, sanctions with respect to certain persons who are responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses committed against citizens of Syria or their family members. • S. 2152, Syria Democracy Transition Act of 2012—Would have imposed, among other things, sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions with the central bank of Syria. • S. 2224, Would have required the President to report to Congress on issues related to Syria—Directed the President to report to Congress regarding (1) opposition groups operating inside or outside of Syria to oppose the Syrian government, and (2) the size and security of conventional and non-conventional weapons stockpiles in Syria. • S. 3498, Syria Humanitarian Support and Democratic Transition Assistance Act of 2012—Made several statements of policy regarding human rights violations, assistance to the Syrian people, weapons security, and support for transitional governance in Syria. Would have directed the President to appoint a Special Congressional Research Service 26 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Envoy for Syria. Encouraged the President to provide bilateral assistance in the form of relief and transition support and would have authorized “such sums as may be necessary … for bilateral assistance programs in Syria” for FY2013 and FY2014. Would have authorized increased funding to countries “that have experienced an influx of refugees from Syria.” Encouraged the development of a transition and security plan for Syria and would have required reporting on implementation. Resolutions • H.Res. 296/S.Res. 180, A resolution expressing support for peaceful demonstrations and universal freedoms in Syria and condemning the human rights violations by the Asad Regime—Among other things, it urged the “President to continue to work with the European Union, the Government of Turkey, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and other allies and partners to bring an end to human rights abuses in Syria, hold the perpetrators accountable, and support the aspirations of the people of Syria.” • H.Res. 632, A resolution that, among other things, commended the leadership of the Government of Turkey in calling for an end to the violence in Syria and for its responsiveness to the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees. • H.Res. 687, A resolution that, among other things, called on the United Nations Security Council, based on evidence that crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by Syrian government forces, to refer the situation of Syria to the International Criminal Court. • H.Res. 763, A resolution that, among other things, called on all parties in the conflict in Syria to respect the human rights and religious freedom of Syrian citizens. • H.Res. 770, Expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that (1) only Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war, (2) President Obama should set clear objectives for the U.S. Armed Forces before sending them into battle, (3) President Obama should indicate a direct national security interest in placing the U.S. Armed Forces in harm’s way, and (4) the government of Syria has surrendered all claims of legitimacy by massacring its own people and should peacefully transfer power to a democratically elected government. • S.Res. 370/H.Res. 549, A resolution calling for democratic change in Syria, would state the Senate’s condemnation of “ongoing, widespread, and systemic violations of human rights conducted by authorities in Syria” and calling on Bashar al Asad to step down. The non-binding resolution would have urged the President to support a democratic transition in Syria, establish a Friends of Syria Contact Group, develop a strategy to encourage further military defections, and “develop a plan to identify weapons stockpiles and prevent the proliferation of conventional, biological, chemical, and other types of weapons in Syria.” • S.Res. 379, A resolution that, among other things, expressed strong disappointment with the Governments of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China for their veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Bashar al Asad and the violence in Syria and urged them to reconsider their votes. Congressional Research Service 27 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response • S.Res. 391/H.Res. 629, A resolution that, among other things, called on Syria to (1) open the country to independent and foreign journalists; and (2) release all detained journalists, videographers, and bloggers. • S.Res. 424, A resolution that, among other things, supported calls by Arab leaders to provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar al-Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support, and called on the President to work closely with regional partners to implement these efforts effectively; urged the President to take all necessary precautions to ensure that any support for the Syrian opposition does not benefit individuals in Syria who are aligned with al Qaeda or associated movements, or who have committed human rights abuses; and affirmed that the establishment of safe havens for people from Syria, as contemplated by governments in the Middle East, would be an important step to save Syrian lives and to help bring an end to Mr. Assad’s killing of civilians in Syria, and called on the President to consult urgently and thoroughly with regional allies on whether, how, and where to create such safe havens. • S.Res. 428, A resolution that, among other things, urged the President to formally establish the Atrocities Prevention Board established by Presidential Study Directive-10 in August 2011, and for the Board to provide recommendations to the President concerning the prevention of mass atrocities in Syria. • S.Res. 435, A resolution that, among other things, strongly urged all Governments, including the Republic of Belarus and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to refrain from providing any additional military or security assistance to the Government of Syria. • S.Res. 494, A resolution that, among other things, condemned the Government of the Russian Federation for its long-standing and ongoing support for the criminal regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Amendments • H.Amdt. 1131 to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, agreed in the House of Representatives May 18, 2012, an amendment to limit the availability of funds for Cooperative Threat Reduction activities with Russia until the Secretary of Defense can certify that Russia is no longer supporting the Syrian regime and is not providing to Syria, North Korea, or Iran any equipment or technology that contributes to weapons of mass destruction programs. • S.Amdt. 3262 to S. 3254, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, agreed to in the Senate December 4, 2012, and incorporated in the conference bill H.R. 4310, an amendment to require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to congressional defense committees identifying options to “deny or significantly degrade” the Syrian military’s ability to use air power against civilians and the opposition. Specifically, the report would require an assessment of the deployment of air defense systems, the establishment of no-fly zones, limited air strikes, or “other military activities.” • Section 1295 of H.R. 4310, the conference version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, requires the Administration to provide a Congressional Research Service 28 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response report within 90 days of enactment on military assistance provided by the Russian Federation to Syria. Congressional Research Service 29 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Appendix C. Chronology of United Nations Action on Syria Date Action August 3, 2011 The Security Council issued a presidential statement that expressed profound regret over hundreds of deaths in Syria, condemned widespread violations of human rights against civilians by Syrian authorities, and called for an immediate end to violence in Syria, urging all sides to act with utmost restraint. It also called for access for humanitarian workers for Syrian authorities to follow through on commitments they had made to reform. Lebanon disassociated itself from the statement after its release. October 4, 2011 The Security Council failed to adopt a resolution that would have, among other things, voiced deep concern over violence in Syria and strongly condemned “the continued grave and systematic human rights violations and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.” It called for “an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation and extremism, and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria’s population.” Russia and China voted against the resolution, and Brazil, India, Lebanon, and South Africa abstained. February 4, 2012 The Security Council failed to adopt a resolution that would have, among other things, adopted an Arab League plan outlining a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system. The resolution had called on the Syrian government to cease violence against civilians, withdraw its armed forces from cities and towns and return them to their barracks, guarantee the freedom of peaceful demonstrations, and allow unhindered access for all Arab League institutions to “determine the truth about the situation on the ground and monitor the incidents taking place." Russia and China voted against the resolution. February 23, 2012 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Nabil Elaraby appointed Kofi Annan as United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria. April 5, 2012 The Security Council issued another presidential statement that, among other things, noted the Syrian government commitment on March 25, 2012, to implement Kofi Annan’s six-point peace proposal. The statement also called upon the Syrian government to implement an U.N.-brokered cease-fire by withdrawing troops from population centers by April 10, 2012. It also called upon all parties, including the Syrian opposition, to cease all armed violence no later than April 12, 2012. April 14, 2012 The Security Council passed Resolution 2042, which approved the deployment of a U.N. advance team of 30 military observers to Syria. It also demanded that the Syrian authorities withdraw security forces from population centers and begin a dialogue with the opposition. The vote marked the first time since protests began that the Security Council was united in demanding a halt to the violence. April 21, 2012 The Security Council passed Resolution 2043, which established—for a 90-day period—a United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) with an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers under the command of a Chief Military Observer. The resolution also created a civilian team to help implement elements of the full peace plan, such as the start of a national political dialogue and the government’s granting of the right to demonstrate. June 16, 2012 UNSMIS Commander Norwegian Major General Robert Mood suspended observation patrols due to increased violence. July 19, 2012 The Security Council failed to adopt a proposed resolution that would have, among other things, threatened sanctions on Syria if demands to end the violence were not met. Permanent members China and Russia voted against the resolution and Pakistan and South Africa abstained. The resolution would have had the Security Congressional Research Service 30 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Council act under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to demand verifiable compliance—within 10 days of the adoption—with its demands in previous resolutions that Syrian authorities pull back military concentrations from population centers and cease the use of heavy weaponry against them. July 20, 2012 The Security Council passed UNSCR 2059 which extended the UNSMIS mission for an additional 30 days. It also conditioned any further renewal of UNSMIS on the cessation of the use of heavy weapons by the government and a reduction in violence by all sides. August-September 2012 United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan announced his intention to resign upon the expiration of his mandate on August 31, 2012. Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi replaces Annan as Joint Special Envoy and begins diplomatic engagement with international parties and the Asad government. October 2012 Brahimi proposes a ceasefire linked to the Islamic holiday of Eid al Adha that is considered and adopted by the government and some opposition groups, but quickly breaks down. November-December 2012 Brahimi warns that state failure may result from continued fighting in Syria and renews calls for a negotiated political solution based on the July 2012 communique of the Action Group on Syria.50 U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reports his concern “that the presence of armed members of the opposition and the ongoing military activities of the Syrian security forces [in the Golan Heights area] have the potential to ignite a larger conflict between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic with grave consequences.” The United Nations suspends operations in Syria on December 3, citing deteriorating security conditions. On December 19, the United Nations, humanitarian organizations, and the government of Syria released estimates and appeals for assistance for Syrian refugees as well as those displaced or otherwise in need in Syria. A U.N. Syria Regional Response Plan seeks $1 billion for Syrian refugees through the first half of 2013. A U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan for Syria, prepared in part by the government of Syria, seeks $519 million to support Syrians affected by the conflict through the first half of 2013. January-April 2013 On January 30, U.N. member states, agencies, and non-governmental organizations convened an International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria held in Kuwait. At the conference, several countries made new pledges of funding to support humanitarian assistance for Syrians. Several of the largest donors included Kuwait, the UAE, United States, and European Commission. In February 2013, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report noting that large parts of the country are scenes of “continuous combat, involving more brutal tactics and new military capabilities on all sides.” In March 2013, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and described the Syrian humanitarian crisis “dramatic beyond description.” He also warned that the refugee flows into neighboring countries will have an “unimaginable impact on the economy, the society and the security of these countries.” In April 2013, various U.N. officials published an OpEd in the New York Times in which they called on “political leaders involved” to reach a political solution to the Syrian civil war, writing that “We ask that they use their collective influence to insist on a political solution to this horrendous crisis before hundreds of thousands more people lose their homes and lives and futures — in a region already at the tipping point.” 50 Available at Congressional Research Service 31 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Congressional Research Service 32 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Appendix D. U.S. Sanctions on Syria Overview At present, a variety of legislative provisions and executive directives prohibit U.S. aid to Syria and restrict bilateral trade. Syria remains a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism and is therefore subject to a number of general U.S. sanctions. Syria was placed on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List in 1979. Moreover, between 2003 and 2006 Congress passed legislation and President Bush issued new executive orders that expanded U.S. sanctions specifically on Syria. • The table below reviews sanctions introduced since early 2011 in response to Syria’s uprising. • Syria-specific sanctions and general sanctions applicable to Syria are also summarized below. Background on U.S. Assistance to Syria and Restrictions Because of a number of legal restrictions and U.S. sanctions, many resulting from Syria’s designation as a country supportive of international terrorism, Syria is no longer eligible to receive U.S. foreign assistance. Between 1950 and 1981, the United States provided a total of $627.4 million in aid to Syria: $34.0 million in development assistance, $438.0 million in economic support, and $155.4 million in food assistance. Most of this aid was provided during a brief warming trend in bilateral relations between 1974 and 1979. Significant projects funded with U.S. assistance included water supply, irrigation, rural roads and electrification, and health and agricultural research. No aid has been provided to Syria since 1981, when the last aid programs were closed out. In the event of regime change, the Obama Administration and Congress would need to reevaluate any successor government’s policies with regard to support for international terrorism in order to determine Syria’s potential eligibility for U.S. assistance. Syria’s Economy and Sanctions Reports indicate that the Syrian economy and national budget are suffering due to a steep drop in oil exports resulting from sanctions; over a year of domestic unrest and the loss of tourism revenues; and new social and military spending aimed at quelling public anger. Estimates vary on the degree of contraction in 2011, ranging between 5% and 15%.51 The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that the Syrian economy will contract by 8.1% in 2012. Urban areas are now experiencing daily power outages and fuel shortages;52 inflation is rising;53 and the value of the Syrian pound has plummeted on the black market (from 54 pounds against 51 “Cracks Widen in Syrian Economy,” IPS, January 24, 2012. In May 2012, the Syrian government raised the price of subsidized fuel by 25%, just weeks after doubling electricity prices. 53 Inflation may be as high as 30% in Syria. According to a June 2012 report, the Syrian government has recently circulated new currency printed in Russia in order to pay public sector salaries amidst a ballooning fiscal deficit. See, “Syria Prints New Money as Deficit Grows-Bankers,” Reuters, June 13, 2012. 52 Congressional Research Service 33 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response the dollar to over 103 pounds as of early March), forcing the government to spend resources propping it up. Syria’s stock market is down 40% since the unrest began in March 2011. Foreign exchange reserves held by the Syrian Central Bank have reportedly fallen from $18 billion in the fall of 2011 to between $5 billion and $10 billion, and now lose about $1 billion a month.54 With the loss of European export markets due to a European Union oil import ban, Syria has been denied a major source of revenue and hard currency (25%-30% of total government revenue or $4 billion a year). According to Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Alao, sanctions on Syrian oil exports have cost the country $4 billion. Before sanctions, the main buyers of approximately 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) of exported Syrian oil were Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, and Turkey. Syria produces about 380,000 bpd total, though 2011 total production fell to around 320,000 bpd due to sanctions.55 Foreign oil companies that have suspended operations in Syria include Tatneft (Russia), Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Total (France), Gulfsands (UK), Suncor (Canada), and INA (Croatia). In March 2012, Syrian officials announced that the Russian energy company Gazprom would take over INA’s oil and gas operations in Syria. The operating status of two Chinese companies with investments in Syria, CNPC and Sinopec, is unknown.56 Western countries also have banned new investment in Syria’s oil and gas sector, and energy traders and shipping firms also report changes to their engagement with Syria. European sanctions do not ban the export of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to Syria, since it is widely used by ordinary households for heating and cooking. Since new sanctions were enacted, many analysts have speculated about whether new investors and new foreign markets would arise for Syrian oil exports, albeit at lower prices due to sanctions and increased shipping, insurance, and financing costs. Some experts believe that both India and China are in a position to refine the heavy crude that Syria exports. However, others assert that some Asian buyers would find the prospect of purchasing Syrian oil too risky or politically problematic. Venezuela has supplied Syria with shipments of diesel fuel in exchange for Syrian naphtha, a refined petroleum product. In 2012, Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez referred to “a high level of cooperation with Syria, a besieged nation, whom the transnational interests want to bring down.” Other reports have suggested that Russia and Iran export gasoil and diesel to Syria.57 Syrian officials have referenced negotiations for fuel import deals with Russia, Iran, and Algeria.58 54 “Syria Running out of Cash as Sanctions take toll, but Assad avoids Economic Pain,” Washington Post, April 24, 2012. 55 Though oil production declined in 2011, natural gas production increased by 8% due to investment in gas infrastructure made before unrest began. 56 “Syria: Voting with their feet,” Economist Intelligence Unit—Business Middle East, January 16, 2012. 57 “How Russia, Iran keep fuel flowing to Syria,” Reuters, April 26, 2012. 58 “Syria, Russia Negotiating Long-Term Gas, Diesel Fuel Contracts,” ITAR-TASS World Service, May 25, 2012. Congressional Research Service 34 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Table D-1. U.S. Sanctions Against Syria in 2011-2013 (Implemented by Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC]) Date Sanctioned Individual/Entity Sanction or Related Activity Description April 18, 2013 Removed Nabil Rafik Al Kuzbari from the SDN list. Syria Designation Removal March 15, 2013 Authorizes U.S. persons to provide to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces certain services, including transfers of funds, otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13582 Syria General License No. 16 Issued December 11, 2012 Two senior leaders of the Syria-based Al Nusra Front, Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab, for acting on behalf of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI). Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List pursuant to Executive Order 13224 December 11, 2012 Jaysh al-Sha'bi and Shabiha (two armed militia groups that operate under the control of the Syrian government) and two Shabiha commanders Ayman Jaber and Mohammed Jaber Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List pursuant to Executive Orders 13572 and 13582 variously September 19, 2012 Amr Armanazi, director of Syria’s Scientific Studies Research Center, Army Supply Bureau, involved in missile procurement, and Belarus-based Belvneshpromservice Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List September 14, 2012 Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, is being designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13582, for providing support to the Syrian government. Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, pursuant to E.O.13582 August 14, 2012 Riyad Hijab, former Prime Minister Post-defection removal from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List August 10, 2012 Hezbollah, SYTROL Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, pursuant to E.O.13582 Congressional Research Service 35 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Date July 18, 2012 Sanctioned Individual/Entity Omran Ahed Al-Zoubi, Minister of Information; Subhi Ahmad Al-Abdullah, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform; Safwan Al-Assaf, Minister of Housing and Urban Development; Wael Nader AlHalqi, Minister of Health; Mohammad Al-Jleilati, Minister of Finance; Hala Al Nasser, Minister of Tourism; Mohammad Abdul-Sattar Al-Sayyed, Minister of Religious Endowments; Yasser Al-Sibaei, Minister of Public Works; Hazwan Al Wazz, Minister of Education; Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, Minister of Presidential Affairs; Nazira Farah Sarkis, Minister of State for Environmental Affairs; Hussein Mahmoud Farzat, Minister of State; Omar Ibrahim Ghalawanji, Deputy Prime Minister for Services Affairs; Radwan Habib, Minister of Justice; Ali Haidar, Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs; Bassam Hanna, Minister of Water Resources; Riyad Hijab, Prime Minister; Mahmoud Ibrahim Said, Minister of Transport; Qadri Jamil, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs; Imad Mohammad Deeb Khamis, Minister of Electricity; Adib Mayaleh, Governor of Central Bank of Syria; Jassim Mohammad Zakarya, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor; Lubanah Mshaweh, Minister of Culture; Said Mu’zi Hneidi, Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources; Imad Abdul-Ghani Sabouni, Minister of Communications and Technology; Fuad Shukri Kurdi, Minister of Industry; Joseph Jurji Sweid, Minister of State; Mohammad Yehya Moalla, Minister of Higher Education; Mohammad Zafer Mihbek, Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Sanction or Related Activity Description Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List Business Lab, Drex Technologies(Virgin Islands)a, Handasieh, Industrial Solutions, Mechanical Construction Factory, Syronics May 30, 2012 Syria International Islamic Bank Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List May 1, 2012 Foreign Persons/Foreign Entities that have violated, attempted to violate, conspired to violate, or caused a violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran or Syria, or that have facilitated deceptive transactions for persons subject to U.S. sanctions concerning Syria or Iran. Executive Order 13608—Authorizes the Department of the Treasury to publicly identify foreign individuals and entities that have violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and Syria and generally bars their access to U.S. financial and commercial systems. April 27, 2012 Congressional Research Service OFAC issued General License 4A, which authorizes the exports or re-exports to Syria of items licensed or otherwise authorized by the Department of Commerce and of exports and reexports of certain services. General License 4A replaces and supersedes General License 4, dated August 18, 2011. 36 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Date Sanctioned Individual/Entity Sanction or Related Activity Description April 23, 2012 Governments of Syria and Iran, Ali Mamluk (Director of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate), Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, Syriatel, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Law Enforcement Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Datak Telecom Executive Order 13606—Blocks the property and suspends entry into the United States of certain persons with respect to grave human rights abuses by the governments of Iran and Syria via information technology. March 30, 2012 General Munir Adanov (Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Syrian Army), General Dawood Rajiha (Minister of Defense) Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List March 5, 2012 General Organization of Radio and TV Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List February 23, 2012 OFAC issued General License 15 related to Syria to authorize transactions in connection with patent, trademark, copyright, or other intellectual property protection that would otherwise be prohibited by Executive Order 13582. February 16, 2012 Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List December 1, 2011 Muhammad Makhluf, Military Housing Establishment, Real Estate Bank Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List October 3, 2011 OFAC issued two general licenses related to Syria to authorize payments in connection with overflight or emergency landing and transactions with respect to telecommunications September 27, 2011 OFAC issued a general license related to Syria to authorize third-country diplomatic and consular funds transfers and to authorize certain services in support of nongovernmental organizations’ activities. September 9, 2011 OFAC issued four general licenses related to Syria to authorize wind down transactions, certain official activities of international organizations, incidental transactions related to U.S. persons residing in Syria and operation of accounts. August 30, 2011 Walid Mouallem (Foreign Minister), Ali Abdul Karim Ali (Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon), Bouthaina Shaaban (Advisor to the President) Added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List August 18, 2011 Government of Syria Executive Order 13582—Freezes all assets of the Government of Syria, prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria, bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products, prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products, and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. Congressional Research Service 37 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Date Sanctioned Individual/Entity Sanction or Related Activity Description August 18, 2011 General Petroleum Corporation, Syrian Company For Oil Transport, Syrian Gas Company, Syrian Petroleum Company, Sytrol Added to OFAC’s SDN List August 10, 2011 Commercial Bank of Syria and its Lebanon-based subsidiary, Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, Syriatel, the country’s main mobile phone operator Added to OFAC’s SDN List August 4, 2011 Muhammad Hamsho (businessman with ties to Asad family), Hamsho International Group Added to OFAC’s SDN List June 29, 2011 Jamil Hassan (Head of Air Force Intelligence), Political Security Directorate (PSD, domestic intelligence) Added to OFAC’s SDN List May 18, 2011 President Bashar al Asad, Farouk al Shara (vice president), Adel Safar (prime minister), Mohammad Ibrahim al Shaar (minister of the interior), Ali Habib Mahmoud (minister of defense), Abdul Fatah Qudsiya (head of Syrian military intelligence), Mohammed Dib Zaitoun (director of political security directorate), Nabil Rafik al Kuzbari, General Mohsen Chizari (Commander of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corp Qods Force suspected of human rights abuses in Syria), Al Mashreq Investment Fund, Bena Properties, Cham Holding, Syrian Air Force Intelligence, Syrian Military Intelligence, Syrian National Security Bureau Executive Order 13573 adds listed individuals and entities to OFAC’s SDN List April 29, 2011 Maher al Asad, Ali Mamluk (director of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate GID), Atif Najib (former head of the Syrian Political Security Directorate for Dara'a province and the president’s cousin). the General Intelligence Directorate, and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (for allegedly assisting Syria in its crackdown) Executive Order 13572 adds listed individuals and entities to OFAC’s SDN List Source: U.S. Treasury Department. Notes: As part of its enforcement efforts, OFAC publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called Specially Designated Nationals or SDNs. Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them. a. According to the Treasury Department, Drex Technologies, “belongs to Assad’s billionaire cousin and government insider, Rami Makhluf, who was designated by the Treasury Department in February 2008 under E.O. 13460 for improperly benefiting from and aiding the public corruption of Syrian regime officials. Drex Technologies was designated pursuant to E.O. 13572, which authorizes the United States to sanction any entities owned or controlled by persons designated under E.O. 13460.” Specific Sanctions Against Syria Specific U.S. sanctions levied against Syria fall into three main categories: (1) sanctions resulting from the passage of the 2003 Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act (SALSA) that, among other things, prohibit most U.S. exports to Syria; (2) sanctions imposed by executive order from the President that specifically deny certain Syrian citizens and entities access to the U.S. financial system due to their participation in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; association with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden; or destabilizing activities in Iraq and Congressional Research Service 38 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Lebanon; and (3) sanctions resulting from the USA PATRIOT Act levied specifically against the Commercial Bank of Syria in 2006. The 2003 Syria Accountability Act On December 12, 2003, President Bush signed H.R. 1828, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act into law, as P.L. 108-175. This law requires the President to impose penalties on Syria unless it ceases support for international terrorist groups, ends its occupation of Lebanon, ceases the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and has ceased supporting or facilitating terrorist activity in Iraq (§§5(a) and 5(d)). Sanctions include bans on the export of military items (already banned under other legislation, see above)59 and of dual use items (items with both civil and military applications) to Syria (§5(a)(1)). In addition, the President is required to impose two or more sanctions from a menu of six: • a ban on all exports to Syria except food and medicine; • a ban on U.S. businesses operating or investing in Syria; • a ban on landing in or overflight of the United States by Syrian aircraft; • reduction of diplomatic contacts with Syria; • restrictions on travel by Syrian diplomats in the United States; and • blocking of transactions in Syrian property (§5(a)(2)). Implementation On May 11, 2004, President Bush issued Executive Order 13338, implementing the provisions of P.L. 108-175, including the bans on munitions and dual use items (§5(a)(1)) and two sanctions from the menu of six listed in Section 5(a)(2). The two sanctions he chose were the ban on exports to Syria other than food and medicine (§5(a)(2)(A)) and the ban on Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States (§5(a)(2)(D)). In issuing his executive order, the President stated that Syria has failed to take significant, concrete steps to address the concerns that led to the enactment of the Syria Accountability Act. The President also imposed two additional sanctions based on other legislation. • Under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, he instructed the Treasury Department to prepare a rule requiring U.S. financial institutions to sever correspondent accounts with the Commercial Bank of Syria because of money laundering concerns. • Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), he issued instructions to freeze assets of certain Syrian individuals and government entities involved in supporting policies inimical to the United States. 59 Syria’s inclusion on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List as well as SALSA requires the President to restrict the export of any items to Syria that appear on the U.S. Munitions List (weapons, ammunition) or Commerce Control List (dual-use items). Congressional Research Service 39 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Waivers In the executive order and in an accompanying letter to Congress, President Bush cited the waiver authority contained in Section 5(b) of the Syria Accountability Act and stated that he wished to issue the following waivers on grounds of national security. Regarding Section 5(a)(1) and 5(a)(2)(A): The following exports are permitted: products in support of activities of the U.S. government; medicines otherwise banned because of potential dual use; aircraft parts necessary for flight safety; informational materials; telecommunications equipment to promote free flow of information; certain software and technology; products in support of U.N. operations; and certain exports of a temporary nature.60 Regarding Section 5(a)(2)(D): The following operations are permitted: takeoff/landing of Syrian aircraft chartered to transport Syrian officials on official business to the United States; takeoff/landing for non-traffic and non-scheduled stops; takeoff/landing associated with an emergency; and overflights of U.S. territory. Targeted Financial Sanctions Since the initial implementation of the Syria Accountability Act (in Executive Order 13338 dated May 2004), the President has repeatedly taken action to sanction individual members of the Asad regime’s inner circle.61 E.O. 13338 declared a national emergency with respect to Syria and authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to block the property of individual Syrians. Based on Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), the President has annually extended his authority to block the property of individual Syrians (latest on April 29, 2011). When issuing each extension, the President has noted that the actions and policies of the government of Syria continued to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat.62 The following individuals and entities have been targeted by the U.S. Treasury Department (Office of Foreign Assets Control or OFAC): • On June 30, 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two senior Syrian officials involved in Lebanon affairs, Syria’s then-interior minister and its head of military intelligence in Lebanon (respectively, the late General Kanaan and General Ghazali), as Specially Designated Nationals, thereby freezing any assets they may have in the United States and banning any U.S. persons, including U.S. 60 According to U.S. regulations, any product that contains more than 10% de minimis U.S.-origin content, regardless of where it is made, is not allowed to be exported to Syria. For U.S. commercial licensing prohibitions on exports and re-exports to Syria, see 15 C.F.R. pt. 736 Supp No. 1. The Department of Commerce reviews license applications on a case-by-case basis for exports or re-exports to Syria under a general policy of denial. For a description of items that do not require export licenses, see, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Department of Commerce, Implementation of the Syria Accountability Act, available at 61 According to the original text of E.O. 13338, the President’s authority to declare a national emergency authorizing the blocking of property of certain persons and prohibiting the exportation or re-exportation of certain goods to Syria is based on “The Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, P.L. 108-175 (SAA), and Section 301 of Title 3, United States Code.” available at 13338.pdf. 62 The President last extended the State of Emergency on April 29, 2011. Congressional Research Service 40 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response financial institutions outside of the United States, from conducting transactions with them.63 Kanaan allegedly committed suicide in October 2005, though some have speculated that he may have been murdered. • On January 18, 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department took the same actions against the President’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, chief of military intelligence. • On April 26, 2006, President Bush issued Executive Order 13399 that authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone found to be involved in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It also affects anyone involved in bombings or assassinations in Lebanon since October 2004, or anyone hindering the international investigation into the Hariri assassination. The order allows the United States to comply with UNSCR 1636, which calls on all states to freeze the assets of those persons designated by the investigating commission or the government of Lebanon to be involved in the Hariri assassination. • On August 15, 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department froze assets of two other senior Syrian officers: Major General Hisham Ikhtiyar, for allegedly contributing to Syria’s support of foreign terrorist organizations including Hezbollah; and Brigadier General Jama’a Jama’a, for allegedly playing a central part in Syria’s intelligence operations in Lebanon during the Syrian occupation.64 • On January 4, 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated three Syrian entities, the Syrian Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the Electronics Institute, and the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory, as weapons proliferators under an executive order (E.O. 13382) based on the authority vested to the President under IEEPA. The three state-sponsored institutions are divisions of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which was designated by President Bush as a weapons proliferator in June 2005 for research on the development of biological and chemical weapons.65 • On August 1, 2007, the President issued E.O. 1344166 blocking the property of persons undermining the sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic processes and institutions. On November 5, 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated four individuals reportedly affiliated with the Syrian regime’s efforts to reassert Syrian control over the Lebanese political system, including Assaad Halim Hardan, Wi’am Wahhab, and Hafiz Makhluf (under the authority of E.O. 13441) and Muhammad Nasif Khayrbik (under the authority of E.O. 13338).67 63 See See 65 See 66 On July 29, 2010, President Obama extended that National Emergency with respect to Lebanon for another year, stating that “While there have been some recent positive developments in the Syrian-Lebanese relationship, continuing arms transfers to Hizballah that include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems serve to undermine Lebanese sovereignty, contribute to political and economic instability in Lebanon, and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” See, Notice of July 29, 2010— Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to the Actions of Certain Persons to Undermine the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions, Federal Register, Title 3—The President, [Page 45045]. 67 See 64 Congressional Research Service 41 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response • On February 13, 2008, President Bush issued another order (E.O.13460) blocking the property of senior Syrian officials. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the order “targets individuals and entities determined to be responsible for or who have benefitted from the public corruption of senior officials of the Syrian regime.” The order also revises a provision in Executive Order 13338 to block the property of Syrian officials who have undermined U.S. and international efforts to stabilize Iraq.68 One week later, under the authority of E.O. 13460, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Rami Makhluf, a powerful cousin of President Bashar al Asad. Sanctions Against the Commercial Bank of Syria As previously mentioned, under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, President Bush instructed the Treasury Department in 2004 to prepare a rule requiring U.S. financial institutions to sever correspondent accounts with the Commercial Bank of Syria because of money laundering concerns. In 2006, the Treasury Department issued a final ruling that imposes a special measure against the Commercial Bank of Syria as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern. It bars U.S. banks and their overseas subsidiaries from maintaining a correspondent account with the Commercial Bank of Syria, and it also requires banks to conduct due diligence that ensures the Commercial Bank of Syria is not circumventing sanctions through its business dealings with them.69 General Sanctions Applicable to Syria The International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-329). Section 303 of this act (90 Stat. 753-754) required termination of foreign assistance to countries that aid or abet international terrorism. This provision was incorporated into the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 as Section 620A (22 USC 2371). (Syria was not affected by this ban until 1979, as explained below.) The International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 (Title II of P.L. 95-223, codified at 50 U.S.C. §1701 et seq.) Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the President has broad powers pursuant to a declaration of a national emergency with respect to a threat “which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” These powers include the ability to seize foreign assets under U.S. jurisdiction, to prohibit any transactions in foreign exchange, to prohibit payments between financial institutions involving foreign currency, and to prohibit the import or export of foreign currency. The Export Administration Act of 1979 (P.L. 96-72). Section 6(i) of this act (93 Stat. 515) required the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of State to notify Congress before licensing export of goods or technology valued at more than $7 million to countries determined to 68 A previous executive order, E.O. 13315, blocks property of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and members of his former regime. On June 9, 2005, the Treasury Department blocked property and interests of a Syrian company, SES International Corp., and two of its officials under the authority of E.O.13315. 69 See, “U.S. Trade and Financial Sanctions Against Syria.” Available at html. Congressional Research Service 42 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response have supported acts of international terrorism. (Amendments adopted in 1985 and 1986 relettered Section 6(i) as 6(j) and lowered the threshold for notification from $7 million to $1 million.) A by-product of these two laws was the so-called state sponsors of terrorism list. This list is prepared annually by the State Department in accordance with Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act. The list identifies those countries that repeatedly have provided support for acts of international terrorism. Syria has appeared on this list ever since it was first prepared in 1979; it appears most recently in the State Department’s annual publication Country Reports on Terrorism, 2009, issued on August 5, 2010. Syria’s inclusion on this list in 1979 triggered the above-mentioned aid sanctions under P.L. 94-329 and trade restrictions under P.L. 96-72. Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-399). Section 509(a) of this act (100 Stat. 853) amended Section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act to prohibit export of items on the munitions list to countries determined to be supportive of international terrorism, thus banning any U.S. military equipment sales to Syria. (This ban was reaffirmed by the AntiTerrorism and Arms Export Amendments Act of 1989—see below.) Also, 10 U.S.C. 2249a bans obligation of U.S. Defense Department funds for assistance to countries on the terrorism list. Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-509). Section 8041(a) of this act (100 Stat. 1962) amended the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 to deny foreign tax credits on income or war profits from countries identified by the Secretary of State as supporting international terrorism. (26 USC 901(j)). The President was given authority to waive this provision under Section 601 of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-200, May 18, 2000). The Anti-Terrorism and Arms Export Control Amendments Act of 1989 (P.L. 101-222). Section 4 amended Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act to impose a congressional notification and licensing requirement for export of goods or technology, irrespective of dollar value, to countries on the terrorism list, if such exports could contribute to their military capability or enhance their ability to support terrorism. Section 4 also prescribes conditions for removing a country from the terrorism list: prior notification by the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the chairmen of two specified committees of the Senate. In conjunction with the requisite notification, the President must certify that the country has met several conditions that clearly indicate it is no longer involved in supporting terrorist activity. (In some cases, certification must be provided 45 days in advance of removal of a country from the terrorist list). The Anti-Economic Discrimination Act of 1994 (Part C, P.L. 103-236, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY1994-1995). Section 564(a) bans the sale or lease of U.S. defense articles and services to any country that questions U.S. firms about their compliance with the Arab boycott of Israel. Section 564(b) contains provisions for a presidential waiver, but no such waiver has been exercised in Syria’s case. Again, this provision is moot in Syria’s case because of other prohibitions already in effect. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-132). This act requires the President to withhold aid to third countries that provide assistance (§325) or lethal military equipment (§326) to countries on the terrorism list, but allows the President to waive this provision on grounds of national interest. A similar provision banning aid to third countries that sell lethal equipment to countries on the terrorism list is contained in Section 549 of the Foreign Congressional Research Service 43 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Operations Appropriations Act for FY2001 (H.R. 5526, passed by reference in H.R. 4811, which was signed by President Clinton as P.L. 106-429 on November 6, 2000). Also, Section 321 of P.L. 104-132 makes it a criminal offense for U.S. persons (citizens or resident aliens) to engage in financial transactions with governments of countries on the terrorism list, except as provided in regulations issued by the Department of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State. In the case of Syria, the implementing regulation prohibits such transactions “with respect to which the United States person knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the financial transaction poses a risk of furthering terrorist acts in the United States.” (31 CFR 596, published in the Federal Register August 23, 1996, p. 43462.) In the fall of 1996, the then chairman of the House International Relations Committee reportedly protested to then President Clinton about the Treasury Department’s implementing regulation, which he described as a “special loophole” for Syria. In addition to the general sanctions listed above, specific provisions in foreign assistance appropriations legislation enacted since 1981 have barred Syria by name from receiving U.S. aid. The most recent ban appears in Section 7007 of P.L. 112-74, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, which states that “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance or reparations for the governments of Cuba, North Korea, Iran, or Syria: Provided, That for purposes of this section, the prohibition on obligations or expenditures shall include direct loans, credits, insurance and guarantees of the Export-Import Bank or its agents.” Section 307 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, amended by Section 431 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1994-1995 (P.L. 103-236, April 30, 1994), requires the United States to withhold a proportionate share of contributions to international organizations for programs that benefit eight specified countries or entities, including Syria. The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, P.L. 106-178, was amended by P.L. 109-112 to make its provisions applicable to Syria as well as Iran. The amended act, known as the Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act, requires the President to submit semi-annual reports to designated congressional committees, identifying any persons involved in arms transfers to or from Iran or Syria; also, the act authorizes the President to impose various sanctions against such individuals. On October 13, 2006, President Bush signed P.L. 109-353 which expanded the scope of the original law by adding North Korea to its provisions, thereby renaming the law the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (or INKSNA for short). The list of Syrian entities designated under INKSNA includes Army Supply Bureau (2008), Syrian Navy (2009), Syrian Air Force (2009), and Ministry of Defense (2008).70 On May 24, 2011, the State Department designated the Industrial Establishment of Defense and Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) under INKSNA. 70 See, State Department Press Releases And Documents “Near East: Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act: Imposed Sanctions,” July 20, 2010. Congressional Research Service 44 Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response Author Contact Information Jeremy M. Sharp Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, 7-8687 Congressional Research Service Christopher M. Blanchard Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, 7-0428 45