Washington – Asharq Al-Awsat
Why was there a five-year delay in passing the Caesar Act? What was stopping the US administration? Bilal Farouk, a member of the Syrian-American Council, says that after “Caesar” arrived at the United States, in an attempt to prepare the Act, “we knew the reasons preventing the Act from being passed in Congress and the person who had been disrupting the process.”
Bilal adds that after Caesar left Syria and with the aid of jurists to permit him to share the documents he had attained, he was listened to in the beginning, in an attempt to figure out whether or not any Americans were among those who were murdered. This would have allowed for the issue to become one of the US public opinions. However, after seeing the images, it became apparent that the problem was much bigger than that. It became evident that the issue went beyond imposing sanctions to protect civilians.
When the Act was proposed at the beginning of 2016, Barack Obama was still the President of the United States. When the Act was drafted, the tone was different; it had humane objectives to protect civilians and prisoners. It did not include international sanctions on other countries and did not include the oil industry or the army. It was widely supported, and it was imagined that it would pass through the parliament.
At the end of his term, Obama was ready to celebrate the nuclear deal with Iran. He feared that passing this Act may affect the nuclear deal. He called the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, Nancy Pelosi, on Friday, only a few days before the Congress was supposed to vote on the Act. According to reliable sources from Pelosi’s office, he asked her to withdraw the vote.
After that, civil organizations that followed up the issue tried, once again, in the hopes that it would be re-proposed for voting. In the beginning, the process of passing the legislation was that of independent Act, and it was supported by the vast majority of the Congress. This is what happened after Trump was elected, and the Republicans took over the Senate. The Republican Senator of Kentucky, Rand Paul, known for his relations with Russia and for supporting Bashar Assad, prevented it from being passed in the Senate because this type of Act cannot pass without getting the vote of the entire Senate.
Rand Paul disrupted the passing of the Act in the Senate for three years. He would bounce it back to Congress to vote on it and refer it to the Senate to no avail. Consequently, Syrian organizations decided to communicate with US attorneys and civil organizations to find a way to pass the Act. It was agreed that the Act would be included in the budget Act of the Department of Defense. That way, it would not need to be approved by the entire Senate. It received 74 votes.
Last year, there was an attempt to include the Caesar Act in the budget, but it was challenged by problems that faced Trump in Congress after Democrats took over. This led to a shutting down of the US Government for 35 days as a result of Trump’s insistence on including the infamous wall on the border of Mexico in the budget. This suspended the ability to pass any proposition or Act during that time, primarily that the budget cannot be referred to the President to be signed unless it received partisan agreement and the majority of both Congress and Senate members.
This year it was different; Syrian organizations succeeded in including the Caesar Act in the budget.
Bilal concludes by saying that “Caesar” was documenting the corpses and linking them to the victim’s name and number, so the information he was gathering was dangerous. He confirmed that “Caesar” is not in the US and that he goes to Washington from time to time to meet with Congress members and US security agencies. However, he worries that if his identity was revealed, he would be murdered by the Russian, Syrian, or Iranian security agencies. This is what has happened and continues to happen to others.