This article originally appeared in Global Security Newswire, produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group whose mission is preventing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
A group of U.S. senators on Tuesday announced plans to submit legislation aimed at bolstering economic penalties against Syria over the nation's atomic activities and its violent crackdown on dissenters.
Under the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011, presidential administrations would be "called on" to place U.S. financial institutions and government contracts off-limits to entities that hold financial stakes in Syria's power industry, buy Syrian petroleum, or deliver gasoline to the Middle Eastern state, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Joseph Lieberman, ID-Conn., said in a press release.
“We must send a clear message to Syria that until the Assad regime responds to the democratic urging of its people and halts its nuclear development and support for terrorism, Syria will not have any access to the global economy, and neither will any company doing business with Syria," Gillibrand said in the statement. "Doing business with Syria funds the development of nuclear weapons and support for terrorists who have already harmed Americans and our allies. No company should be allowed to put their profits before our safety."
U.S. firms are already generally prohibited from doing business with Syria, but Washington has not previously blacklisted companies based in other nations for doing so, Agence France-Presse reported.
The legislation would mandate punitive actions against Syria comparable to measures against neighboring Iran for as long as Damascus continues "its nuclear program and missile technology and WMD trade," according to the press release. Syria's government would also need to cut ties with extremists and undertake democratic reforms before the sanctions would be lifted, the document states.
The International Atomic Energy Agency recently concluded that Syria had "very likely" attempted to construct a clandestine nuclear reactor at a site destroyed in a 2007 Israeli air strike, according to previous reports; the agency's governing board referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council for potential punitive action. Damascus is also alleged to have provided ballistic missiles to the militant group Hezbollah.