New Arms Bill In Congress Could Involve Major Sanctions On Russia

APThe US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Tuesday to pass a bill that will be highly unpopular in Moscow, not to mention Damascus.

The bill heads first to the Senate, then to the House (where it will meet opposition), and finally to the president.

The Syrian Transition Support Act would provide arms to Syrian rebels in support of a regime change — a precedent Russia deeply opposes. Moscow has already been overtly sending weapons to Assad (more intensely so as of late), so Washington’s move to overtly arm the rebels could easily paint Syria as the battleground of a blossoming proxy war.

Russia won’t like that idea, but it also won’t like the paragraph in the bill about sanctions on anyone shipping arms or oil to the Syrian regime:

Sanctions on arms and oil sales to Assad:  Targeting any person that the President of the United States determines has knowingly participated in or facilitated a transaction related to the sale or transfer of military equipment, arms, petroleum, or petroleum products to the Assad regime.

Person is defined within the actual text of the bill as any “person or entity.”

Arguably this also targets Iran — giving at least some political cover for the idea — nonetheless it also lumps Russia in for stiff U.S. sanctions.

Russia has become a huge exporter of fuel and weapons to Syria, and Syria one of its biggest customers.

“Russia’s economic interests in Syria extend far beyond the military sphere, with a
total value of approximately $20 billion,” Business Insider contributor and Russia expert Dmitry Gorenburg wrote late last year.

The U.S. is well aware of the relationship as well.

As Time’s Simon Schuster recently put it:

The U.S. and its allies have done just about everything short of getting down on their collective knees and begging Russia to stop delivering weapons to the Syrian government.

Well, the begging could be just about over.

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