Menendez, Corker introduce bill for post-Assad Syria

Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced the Syria Transition Support Act on Wednesday, a bill that plans for a post-Assad Syria by offering limited lethal weapons to vetted Syrian groups.

The bipartisan legislation proposed by Menendez, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Corker, the committee's ranking member, would also offer training and non-lethal weapons to the vetted Syrian groups and humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.

"To change the tipping point in Syria against the Assad regime, we must support the opposition by providing lethal arms and help build a free Syria," Menendez said. "Vital national interests are at stake and we cannot watch from the sidelines as the Iranian presence in Syria grows, a growing refugee crisis threatens to destabilize the region, chemical weapons are used against the Syrian people, and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups take root there."

The Syria Transition Support Act includes six key elements, including authority to provide arms, military training and non-lethal supplies to the Syrian armed opposition, creation of a $250 million annual transition fund through fiscal year 2015 for regional transition support, sanctions on oil and arms sales to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, broad authority for humanitarian assistance, administration strategy and an amendment to the Syria Accountability Act.

"The future for Syria is uncertain, but the U.S. has a vested interest in trying to prevent an extremist takeover, which poses a very real risk for us and the region," Corker said. "Without authorizing the use of force or additional spending, this legislation will begin to implement a more coherent U.S. strategy, both now and for the day after Assad, that is focused on trying to shift the momentum on the ground toward moderate opposition groups while also helping them build support within and outside Syria for a new government. This effort coupled with Russia's willingness to participate in talks for political transition will give us the best opportunity for a better outcome."