Kirk has been joined by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen.
Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in the bill that would target foreign
companies that invest in Syria's energy sector. Despite two sets of
sanctions, the administration of President Barack Obama continues to allow
U.S. energy contractors to operate in Syria.
The administration has pledged additional sanctions on the Assad regime.
But despite international pressure neither Obama nor Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton has demanded the ouster of Assad.
"We really need to see President Obama addressing the courage of the
Syrian people," Mohammad Al Abdullah, a Syrian opposition member who met Ms.
Clinton, said. "We want to hear it loudly and clearly that Assad has to step
Officials said a key obstacle has been the refusal of such countries as
China and Russia to allow a condemnation of Syria in the United Nations
Security Council. Still, on Aug. 3, the Council issued a condemnation of
Syria amid the army's assault on Hama in which about 150 people were killed.
"We do plan to move forward with additional sanctions under existing
authorities, and we're exploring the scope of those sanctions," State
Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "Our goal here is to isolate Assad
both politically and deny it revenue. We're working with Congress,
certainly, but in the meantime we are looking at additional steps we can
take to increasingly isolate Assad."
Under the Senate bill, companies that invest in Syria's energy sector
would be banned from bidding for contracts by the U.S. government. Syria's
energy sector has been deemed the leading earner of hard currency.
"The legislation we are introducing today will target the Syrian
regime's economic dependence on the energy sector, dramatically ratcheting
up pressure against the dictatorship in Damascus and in support of a
democratic transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people,"
Lieberman said on Aug. 2.
U.S. ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford envisioned the eventual
departure of Assad. Ford said Washington must begin to examine ways to help
the Syrian opposition as well as any post-Assad government.
"Assad and his circle will not endure forever, but it is not entirely
clear who or what will follow," Ford told the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. "An additional focus of my work on the
ground, which I do not advertise widely, is getting to know the leading
activists and assessing their needs and opportunities for the United States
"They are independent," the ambassador said. "They do not want American
military involvement, but it does offer us opportunities to promote respect
for our principles and ideals, and to eventually reinforce stability and
peace in the Middle East. We have a real opportunity with change in Syria to
see both Iranian influence and Hizbullah influence in the region diminish."