July 19 began as one of the worst days of global inaction in the face of atrocities in Syria. For the third time, Russia and China vetoed a strong United Nations Security Council resolution that would have increased pressure on the Syrian regime. But the day ended with a small victory, in a body not known lately for unified action, as an amendment directly addressing Russia’s problematic role in Syria was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The amendment was part of the House Defense Appropriations Bill, which provides funding for the U.S. Department of Defense. The amendment prohibits U.S. purchases from Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-owned arms company that has been the number one weapons supplier to the Syrian regime. In 2012, the Pentagon had over $1 billion in contracts with Rosoboronexport.
The amendment — introduced by Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), James McGovern (D-MA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Martha Roby (R-AL) — comes closely after a bipartisan letter was sent to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta by several members of Congress. That letter questioned why the United States continues to do business with Rosoboronexport despite months of increasing bloodshed. It stated:
We firmly believe that the Department of Defense should not engage in contracts with companies arming the Assad regime in Syria and enabling his mass atrocities against his own people.
The House letter followed an earlier initiative by 17 U.S. Senators that also questioned U.S. contracts with Syria’s main arms supplier.
The passage of the House amendment is an encouraging sign that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are not willing to accept U.S. taxpayer money supporting, even indirectly, the bloodshed in Syria. Moving forward, the hope is that a similar amendment will be adopted by the Senate as they consider their version of the Defense Appropriations bill.
With your help, United to End Genocide has been working with our partners at Human Rights First to address the Pentagon’s problematic dealings with Rosoboronexport. Stay tuned as we continue the effort to target the enablers of atrocities in Syria.