Senators want tougher sanctions for Syria

ATLANTA — Georgia’s two senators joined more than 60 of their colleagues in signing a letter to President Obama urging him “to significantly increase pressure on the” Syrian government.

“The Syrian people deserve a government that represents their aspirations, and respects their basic human rights. It is clear that President al-Assad is not committed to pursuing the reforms that would meet these goals,” they wrote in the letter. A bipartisan group of senators — including Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, both Republicans from Georgia — signed the letter sent Wednesday.

“As such, the United States and the international community must hold the regime accountable, and pressure them to change course,” they added. “Implementing additional sanctions would show the Syrian people that we stand with them in their struggle for human rights and a more representative government, while also making it clear to the Syrian regime that it will pay an increasing cost for its outrageous repression.”

The senators want Obama to “implement a number of key sanctions outlined in … the Syria Accountability & Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003.” Under the law, President Bush “implemented two of the available sanctions—a ban on exports to Syria other than food and medicine, and a ban on Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States,” they noted in the letter.

“We are pleased that you have maintained these sanctions, but seek further implementation of the law, including a ban on U.S. businesses operating or investing in Syria, restrictions on travel by Syrian diplomats in the United States, and blocking transactions of property in which the Government of Syria has an interest,” the senators requested of the president. “We also request that you work swiftly to identify and implement additional sanctions—including on Syria’s banking sector—to send a clear message to the Syrian government that its behavior will not be tolerated.”

Interestingly, Isakson, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, didn’t participate in Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Robert Ford, the nation’s ambassador to Syria, Fox News reported. He wasn’t alone; U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., was the only committee member to participate in the hearing, Fox reported. Isakson had a scheduling conflict, a spokeswoman told the network.

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