US Congress authorizes sanctions on Syria, Iran, Russia
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 was approved on Dec. 18 by an 86-6 bipartisan vote after passing the House of Representatives last week.
The bill also includes a measure, known as the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019, authorizing additional sanctions and financial restrictions on institutions and individuals doing business with the Syrian regime.
"The President shall impose sanctions on foreign persons that provide significant support to or engage in a significant transaction with the Syrian government or the military forces or contractors acting on behalf of Syria, Russia, or Iran," says the bill.
"The sanctions include blocking of financial and property transactions and barring of entry into the United States," it says, adding that NGOs and activities related to providing humanitarian aid or supporting democratic institutions in Syria are excluded from the sanctions.
Under the bill, the president can suspend some or all of the sanctions under certain conditions, if in line with national security interests.
The bill requires President Donald Trump's signature to become law.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Hundreds of thousands of people have since been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN figures.