The United States supports the Syrian people’s aspirations for a democratic, inclusive, and unified post-Asad Syria. The Asad regime, reinforced by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, has turned the full force of its firepower against its own people in an effort to perpetuate its rule. The United Nations estimates that 93,000 Syrians have been killed since the unrest and violence began over two years ago. The number of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries has increased sharply as violence has escalated. More than 1.6 million Syrians are now registered as refugees or are awaiting registration in neighboring countries while, inside Syria, an additional 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The United States is providing nearly $815 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the conflict. In addition, the United States has committed $250 million in non-lethal transition support to the Syrian opposition. This assistance will help local opposition councils and civil society groups provide essential services to their communities, extend the rule of law, and enhance stability inside liberated areas of Syria. President Obama has also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC). The expansion of this assistance is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC to defend themselves against a repressive regime. Our efforts are also helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies.
At the UK-chaired G-8 summit this week, President Obama and other world leaders called for: an end the conflict through the implementation of the Geneva Communique; the rejection of terrorism and sectarian extremism; access for the UN team assigned to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria; and access for aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need. U.S. diplomatic efforts seek to further isolate the regime, both politically and through comprehensive sanctions; support the Syrian people’s calls for the end of Asad’s rule; and reinforce the Syrian opposition’s vision of a democratic post-Asad Syria – a unified nation that rejects extremism and guarantees the rights, interests, and participation of all Syrians regardless of their gender, religion, or ethnicity.
International efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis have been based on the Geneva Communiqué agreed to by the United Nations Security Council permanent members and key regional and multilateral partners on June 30, 2012. It outlined a political solution to the Syrian conflict through the establishment of a transitional governing body, formed by mutual consent of the regime and the opposition, with full executive powers, including control over all government institutions.
This means the transitional governing body will have control over the military and intelligence services; police forces; government finances and assets; and the judiciary and prison system. The transitional governing body will be charged with establishing a national dialogue, reviewing the constitutional order and legal system, and preparing for and conducting free and fair multi-party elections. The Geneva Communiqué also calls for the continuity of governmental institutions and qualified staff and the preservation and restoration of public services.
The United States, along with the international community, is working tirelessly to provide humanitarian aid to all civilians affected by the brutal conflict in Syria and in the region. During the G-8 summit, President Obama announced over $300 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian crisis, bringing total U.S. humanitarian assistance for those affected by the violence in Syria to nearly $815 million. U.S. assistance is providing emergency medical care and medical supplies, childhood immunizations, food, clean water, and relief supplies to those affected by the crisis, as well supporting refugees and host communities in the neighboring countries.
Within Syria, U.S. humanitarian aid is reaching 3.2 million people in all 14 of the country’s governorates on the basis of need and regardless of political affiliation. It is often not branded as U.S. assistance in order to ensure the safety of aid recipients and humanitarian aid providers as well as to guard against aid distribution being blocked while en route. The United States is committed to using all channels to reach affected populations throughout the country and is working through the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and community-based partners, as well as with the opposition’s Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU). The United States is also working closely with host governments in the region who have generously kept their borders open to refugees fleeing Syria. For more details on the U.S. humanitarian response to the Syria crisis and what U.S. humanitarian assistance is being provided, visit www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria.
Assistance to the Syrian Opposition
The United States is acting in partnership with the international community to assist the Syrian opposition as it works toward building a post-Asad Syria. The U.S. has committed to providing $250 million in non-lethal transition assistance for the Syrian opposition.
This assistance supports the Syrian opposition’s ability to both strengthen its operations and help local councils and communities in liberated areas procure and expand the delivery of basic goods and essential services. For example, in close collaboration with the opposition’s ACU, additional non-lethal transition assistance is being provided to procure pre-identified equipment and supplies for prompt disbursement by the ACU to newly liberated communities. The United States is also delivering halal food rations and medical kits from U.S. government stocks to the Syrian opposition, including the SMC. In addition to expanding existing lines of support, the U.S. will consult with opposition groups and the SMC to determine their most urgent assistance needs.
President Obama has also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC). The expansion of this assistance is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC to defend themselves against a repressive regime. Our efforts are also helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies.
U.S. non-lethal assistance includes training and equipment to build the capacity of a network of ethnically and religiously diverse civilian activists to link Syrian citizens with the Syrian opposition and local coordinating councils. This support enhances the information security of Syrian activists, human rights organizations, and independent media outlets and empowers women leaders to play a more active role in transition planning.
Through a series of small grants, the Syrian opposition is beginning to strengthen grass-roots administration – a foundation of democratic governance – as they provide basic services, including emergency power, sanitation, water and educational services. Some of this assistance is being directed to maintain public safety, extend the rule of law, and enhance the provision of justice to improve local stability and prevent sectarian violence.
Over 6,000 major pieces of equipment, including communications and computer equipment, as well as generators and medical supplies, have been provided to support civilian Syrian opposition groups, civil society activists, and citizen journalists.
Support to civil society groups and local councils includes efforts to train, equip, and build the capacity of nearly 1,500 grassroots activists, including women and youth, from over 100 opposition councils and organizations from around the country; develop groups’ abilities to mobilize citizens, share information, provide community services, and undertake civic functions; support interreligious and communal dialogues and encourage citizen participation in shaping the Syrian transition; and support human rights documentation and transitional justice efforts while laying the foundation for future accountability efforts.
Support to independent media includes assistance to community radio stations providing information for refugees about available services; training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyber-activists to support their documentation, packaging, and dissemination of information on developments in Syria; and technical assistance and equipment to enhance the information and communications security of Syrian activists within Syria.
Assistance in support of the democratic transition includes efforts to link civilian opposition elements inside Syria with global supporters; technical assistance to emerging civil society leaders; and facilitating participation by the business community in the transition processes.
Additional Support for the Syrian People
The United States has taken several steps to enable additional relief and reconstruction activities in Syria, particularly in opposition-controlled areas. To help Syrians begin to rebuild, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a Statement of Licensing Policy inviting U.S. persons to apply to OFAC for specific licenses that would enable them to participate in certain economic activities in Syria. The OFAC statement focuses on applications by U.S. persons seeking to engage in oil-related transactions that benefit the Syrian Coalition, or its supporters, and transactions involving Syria’s agricultural and telecommunications sectors. OFAC also amended Syria General License 11 to authorize the exportation of services and funds transfers in support of not-for-profit activities to preserve and protect cultural heritage sites in Syria. The OFAC general license is an authorization for those who meet its criteria; there is no need for an application.
In addition, pursuant to a new limited waiver of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, the Department of Commerce is authorized to process license applications for the export and re-export of certain commodities, software, and technology for the benefit of the Syrian people, including but not limited to those related to: water supply and sanitation; agricultural production and food processing; power generation; oil and gas production; construction and engineering; transportation; and educational infrastructure. Exports and re-exports of these items require an individual validated license from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
The United States continues to engage Syrians directly, offering academic advising to young people hoping to study in the United States and opportunities to participate in academic exchanges and other outreach programs. The State Department is also working with a range of Syrian, American, and international partners to protect Syria’s rich cultural heritage – including archaeological sites, historic buildings, monuments, and collections of objects – and to halt the trade of looted Syrian cultural property in international antiquities markets.
The State Department maintains an active dialogue to coordinate policy and assistance for Syria with a broad cross-section of Syrian opposition groups, including with the Syrian Coalition offices in Egypt, Turkey, and Washington. We are also in close contact with many Americans, including Syrian-Americans, who have contributed generously and organized to provide assistance to Syrians in need.