Senators unveil bill to block ISIS from profiting off antiquities

Senators unveil bill to block ISIS from profiting off antiquities
© Getty Images

A trio of senators has introduced legislation intended to restrict the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) ability to profit from the sale of antiquities.

The bill would give the administration the authority to impose import restrictions on Syrian antiquities.

“This legislation will not only help to cut off a major source of ISIS’s funding, but will also work to prevent them from continuing to pillage historical sites and destroy precious cultural heritage,” said Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyAction by Congress is needed to help victims of domestic violence Poll: Casey holds double-digit lead over Barletta in Pa. Senate race Ivanka Trump to press Senate on vocational training bill MORE (D-Pa.), one of the three co-sponsors.

Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate Dems call for Judiciary hearing on Trump's 'zero tolerance' Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt MORE (R-Iowa) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) are the other two.

Normally, countries can restrict the illegal sale of historical artifacts through an international treaty from 1970, but the senators noted that the U.S. needs additional authority because it lacks diplomatic relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“We need to do everything we can to stop terrorist financing,” Grassley said. “This bill would help cut off a source of the funding that supports terror and instability in Syria and beyond."

The measure comes in the wake of reports over the last few months that ISIS has ransacked cities and has destroyed historical artifacts including in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and then sold them on the black market.

Casey, Grassley and Perdue said there’s evidence that ISIS collects a tax on antiquities that are excavated and smuggled out of its territory and then they’re sold to approved dealers. They also said the Syrian government, other criminal networks and combatants may also be to blame.

The House has already passed a companion measure, which was authored by the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).