Lawmakers have introduced the bill every year since 2016, but it failed to pass as standalone legislation. It was on the brink of passing last December, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blocked it.
Advocates didn’t give up.
Erica Hanichak, government relations director of Americans for a Free Syria, one of the primary groups that lobbied for the legislation, told me the Assad regime has been behind the bombings of more than 50 hospitals since April. The regime has also bombed houses of worship and markets. Hanichak called the legislation an opportunity “to actually push the regime to the table to focus on political transitions that will bring Syrian civilians, including Christian minorities, some relief to a yearslong crisis.”
Hanichak noted the United States has a vital national security interest in improving the situation. “It’s clear that what happens in Syria doesn’t stay in Syria, whether it’s the refugee crisis, ISIS, the forward march of Iran … all of that starts in Syria. There isn’t another avenue to address these major U.S. national security interests without going through a better policy on Syria.”
After the Friday signing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that Caesar had risked his life to seek accountability and justice for the regime’s atrocities. “The Caesar Act will help us do that.”
“Advancing this legislation helps everyone who suffers under Assad’s grip,” Hanichak said. “Whether that’s the Christian faithful or other communities being targeted by bombardment, arbitrary detention, and the rest.”