The US Senate advanced a Middle East policy on Monday which includes new sanctions on Syria, over a month after US president Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement to withdraw American troops from the civil war-torn country.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly 74 to 19 to impose new sanctions on entities that do business with the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, including sanctions on Syria’s central bank and individuals that support Al-Assad’s government.
The bill also pushed forth increasing military support to Israel and Jordan and allowing state and local governments to penalise companies which boycott Israel.
“The bill is to make improvements to certain defence and security assistance provisions and to authorise the appropriation of funds to Israel, to reauthorize the United States-Jordan Defence Cooperation Act of 2015, and to halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, and for other purposes,” the Senate’s statement read.
In December last year, Trump abruptly decided to withdraw 2,000 US forces from Syria, declaring that the Islamic State (IS) was “already beaten”.
Trump’s announcement came as a surprise for US senior officials, and was criticised by the Republicans who view the decision as a “huge mistake.” In a statement, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was among the first Republicans to denounce Trump’s decree. Graham said that the US withdrawal “is a big win for ISIS, Iran, Al-Assad of Syria, and Russia.”
The announcement also raised fears that Turkey would take advantage of the US withdrawal and attack the US-allied Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist group linked to domestic Kurdish insurgents.