Syria in the Nation's Capital
Syria Sanctions: A new round of U.S. sanctions targeting the Assad regime was announced last week. The Department of Treasury designated three individuals and 13 entities as enablers of the Syrian government. Khodr Taher Bin Ali was among the three listed on the basis of serving as an intermediary and contractor for the Syrian Army’s Fourth Division. The governor of the Syrian Central Bank, Hazem Younes Karfou Husam was designated, as well as Muhammad Louka, the current head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. In a statement, the Department of State noted the sanctions were issued in the wake of the third anniversary of the attack against the town of Armanaz by pro-regime and Russian forces that left 34 dead.
Austin Tice - Update: The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved by voice vote a sense of Congress resolution (HRES 17) that calls on the United States to take steps to secure the release of Austin Tice, an American citizen who went missing after being detained at a checkpoint in Damascus in August 2012. In a last-second change, the panel adopted a substitute amendment that strikes language calling for the U.S. to engage with the Assad regime on the release of Tice and other detainees. Additional language, offered by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) reiterated a provision from the Caesar Act (P.L. 116-92) requiring the Assad regime to free all political prisoners.
Pentagon Report on ISIS: The latest report of the Department of Defense Inspector General finds that stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria remain ongoing. According to USAID there is programming for 65 activities totaling $16.8 million. These projects are being monitored by agency personnel in Turkey, Jordan, and the U.S. However, the report notes the April 2018 freeze on new funding for stabilization efforts in Syria remain largely in effect. In addition, USAID Inspector General plans to audit the agency’s support to internally displaced persons in Syria to determine if USAID is appropriately managing the risks that are inherent in providing humanitarian and stabilization assistance. The audit is scheduled to be completed by September 2021.
Hezbollah Sanctions Bill: A group of House Republicans led by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced legislation (HR 8445) that would tackle money laundering operations by Hezbollah. The bill would require the president to make a determination that areas under Hezbollah’s control in south Lebanon and in the tri-border region in South America are “primary money laundering concerns.”
ISIS Detainees: U.S. officials declared that all Americans captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been repatriated to the United States. The Department of Justice issued a release announcing the recent transfer of four individuals into U.S. custody who are charged with providing material support for ISIS, bringing the total to 27 American citizens known to be repatriated into American custody from Syria and Iraq. The department strongly urged other countries, particularly in Western Europe, to repatriate their own citizens held in detention in eastern Syria. In addition, it was reported this week that El Shafee El-Sheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, two ISIS members accused of killing Americans in Syria, will be brought to the United States in mid-October.