On Sunday, a delegation from the US Congress visited several sites in northwestern Syria. The representatives, all of whom are Republicans from Virginia, Wisconsin, and Arkansas, included Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA), Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), and Rep. French Hill (R-AR). This visit marks the first US delegation to Syria since the late Senator John McCain’s surprise trip to the region in May 2013, over a decade ago.
The delegation was joined by Bader Jamous, a member of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC). The visit was coordinated and facilitated with the help of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a US-based non-profit advocacy group dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and holding the Assad regime accountable for its crimes against humanity.
According to a press release from SETF, the US representatives demonstrated a profound commitment to addressing the situation in Syria. They spent three days, from August 26-29, in the north, visiting a school for orphans and meeting with the head of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), Abd al-Rahman Mustafa. They also met with the Syrian Civil Defense (commonly known as The White Helmets) Director, Raed al-Saleh, and leaders from various other civil societies in the region.
The delegates discussed the recent surge of anti-Assad protests in areas controlled by Assad, the dire aftermath of the earthquakes, the need for continued cross-border aid free from Russian and Assad interference, and the significance of advancing a political solution in accordance with UN Resolution 2254. They also emphasized the importance of establishing justice and accountability for the crimes committed against Syrians and the continuation of sanctions and measures to counter regime normalization.
SETF Executive Director, Mouaz Moustafa, stated that visits like this are crucial for raising awareness about the crimes committed by Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. It is hoped that such trips, which allow representatives to hear firsthand accounts from victims, including orphaned children, will foster policies that hold Assad and his allies accountable. These policies should also support humanitarian and human rights projects that directly benefit the countless Syrians who have suffered under the oppressive regime.
In a statement released after his visit, Rep. Hill described Assad’s rule as a “reign of terror” that “must be stopped.” He also commented on the hardships faced by the Syrian people, noting, “They have endured more than a decade of war, murder, and torture. It is imperative that nations worldwide, including the United States, collaborate to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and to challenge the Assad regime.”