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, including chemical weapons, against its own people in an effort to perpetuate its rule. The ensuing conflict has enflamed tensions in Syria and elsewhere in the region, and fueled extremism. The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 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 2 million people affected by the conflict are now refugees in neighboring countries while, inside Syria, an additional 5 million people are displaced and 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The United States is providing more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance, more than any other nation, to help those affected by the conflict inside Syria and across the region. Aside from humanitarian assistance, the United States has committed $250 million in non-lethal transition support to the Syrian opposition. This assistance is helping the Syrian Coalition, 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. These funds also provide nonlethal assistance to support the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army.
International Diplomatic Support
Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis are based on the Final Communiqué of the 30 June 2012 Action Group meeting. The Communiqué, which is supported vigorously by the United States, outlines the establishment of a transitional governing body formed by mutual consent of the regime and the opposition, with full executive control over all government institutions.
The transitional governing body will also be charged with establishing a national dialogue, reviewing the constitutional order and legal system, and preparing for and conducting free and fair elections.
U.S. diplomatic efforts are helping coordinate the provision of assistance with other partners and allies and supporting the Syrian opposition. U.S. diplomatic efforts also 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.
At the G-8 summit in June 2013, President Obama and other world leaders called for an end to the conflict through the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué; the rejection of terrorism and extremism; and access for aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to all people in need.
The United States is working tirelessly along with the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the brutal conflict in Syria. On the occasion of Eid-al-Fitr, President Obama announced more than $195 million in additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, bringing total U.S. humanitarian assistance to more than $1 billion.
The United States is providing emergency medical care and supplies, shelter, food, clean water, relief supplies and protection to those affected by the crisis inside Syria and in neighboring countries. In response to growing incidents of gender-based violence during the conflict, the U.S. is also supporting women’s health centers, mobile clinics, and psycho-social support for Syrian women and children.
Within Syria, U.S. humanitarian assistance is reaching more than 3.5 million people in all 14 of the country’s governorates on the basis of need and regardless of political affiliation. U.S. assistance is provided through the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and community-based partners, as well as in coordination with the opposition Syrian Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU). To ensure the safety of recipients and humanitarian workers and to guard against assistance being blocked while en route to beneficiaries, U.S. humanitarian assistance is often not branded or marked.
The United States continues to work closely with governments in the region hosting 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.
Nonlethal Transition Assistance to the Syrian Opposition
The United States is working in partnership with the international community to assist the Syrian opposition in building a post-Asad Syria. Toward this end, the United States has committed to providing $250 million in non-lethal transition assistance for the Syrian opposition.
Assistance is being provided to the Syrian Coalition and leading organizations to bolster their institutional capacity and create linkages to local opposition groups. These efforts enable the Syrian opposition to deliver basic goods and essential services to liberated communities. For example, in close collaboration with the ACU, U.S. assistance is being used to procure equipment and supplies for prompt disbursement to newly liberated communities inside Syria. This equipment includes generators to power water pumps and bakeries; ambulances to reinstate emergency medical services; crane and dump trucks for urban sanitation; and water bladders to provide access to potable water. These efforts help the national-level opposition groups provide for the needs of local communities.
Through a series of small grants, the U.S. is helping to strengthen grassroots organizations and local administrative bodies– a foundation of democratic governance – as they step in to fill the void left by the regime and provide basic services, including emergency power, sanitation, water, and educational services to their communities. 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.
U.S. non-lethal assistance includes training and equipment to build the capacity of a network of nearly 1,500 grassroots activists, including women and youth, from over 100 opposition councils and organizations from around the country to link Syrian citizens with the Syrian opposition and local councils. This support enhances the linkages between Syrian activists, human rights organizations, and independent media outlets and empowers women leaders to play a more active role in transition planning.
Support to independent media includes assistance to community radio stations providing news, including information for refugees about available services; training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyber-activists to support their documentation 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. U.S. technical and financial assistance to the ACU’s Media Unit is supporting the Coalition’s outreach to Syrians through the internet; local, independent radio stations; and satellite television.
The United States continues to assist in laying the groundwork for accountability for violations and abuses of international law by supporting the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center’s efforts to document violations committed by all sides of the conflict, and bolstering the capacity of civil society organizations to build the foundations for lasting peace. The United States also works at the grassroots levels with groups and individuals across a broad spectrum of Syria’s diverse religious and ethnic communities to empower women, religious leaders, youth, and civil society to advocate for their communities, build trust, tolerance, and mitigate conflict.
The U.S. has been ramping up its direct non-lethal assistance to the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (SMC). The United States has delivered over 350,000 halal food rations and over three tons of medical supplies to the SMC. Plans are also underway to provide additional non-lethal combat support equipment in the form of communications gear and vehicles.
Additional Support for the Syrian People
To help Syrians begin to rebuild, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a Statement of Licensing Policy inviting U.S. persons to apply for specific licenses to participate in certain economic activities in Syria. The OFAC Statement focused on applications 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.
Pursuant to a new limited waiver of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security 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: water supply and sanitation; agricultural production and food processing; power generation; oil and gas production; construction and engineering; transportation; and educational infrastructure.
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 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. Those wishing to contribute to help Syrians in crisis may wish to review options listed at www.reliefweb.int/country/syr.