Senate Passes Syria Accountability Act

July 7, 2008 - 8:30 PM

( - By a vote of 89 to 4, the Senate Tuesday joined the House of Representatives in passing a measure placing sanctions on Syria unless it stops supporting terrorism and ends its occupation of Lebanon.

The Syria Accountability Act requires the president to prohibit the export to Syria of any items on the U.S. Munitions List or Commerce Control List, items of a military or dual-use nature. In addition, the legislation would require the president to choose two or more sanctions, from a menu of sanctions, to be imposed on Syria.

"This legislation addresses our serious concerns about the role Syria is playing in the Middle East and in the world community," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and co-sponsor of the bill. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also sponsored the measure.

"Syria may be one of the most flagrant violators of international law, one of the worst in terms of sponsoring terrorism, and one of the most disruptive to peace in the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process," Santorum said in a statement.

Santorum pointed out that at a Department of Defense daily briefing in March, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Syria of providing Saddam Hussein with military support, including night vision goggles and passports for Arab "volunteers" to enter Iraq to fight coalition forces.

Syria also reportedly holds a significant amount of Iraqi revenue in its banks, Santorum noted.

On September 16, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton told the House International Relations Committee that Syria has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin gas. Bolton added that Syria is pursuing solid- and liquid-propellant missile programs.

The State Department's April 2001 report on terrorism asserts that Syria continues to provide shelter and support to several Palestinian terrorist groups that maintain camps or facilities in Damascus and Lebanon.

Santorum pointed out that Syrian troops occupy Lebanon, which houses many of the most radical and violent Islamic organizations, such as Hizballah.

"This is a vitally important measure for the U.S. Congress and our country, to go on record and say Syria should be treated no better than other state sponsors of terrorism unless it changes its policies," the senator said.

When the House passed legislations sanctioning Syria, Syrian diplomats warned that the bill could damage U.S. relationship with the Middle East.

The Syrian Embassy was closed Tuesday in observance of Veteran's Day.

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