The toughest U.S. sanctions yet on Syria will take effect this week, thus increasing the pressure on Assad as he loses control over the country’s economy. On top of a 10-year civil war that has destroyed 60% of the country. In fact, the Caesar Act represents the Coup de Grace for Assad.
Washington says the sanctions will help hold Assad and his backers to account for their war crimes. Between them, they caused the death of 700,000 many of whom through torture and disappearances.
U.S. congressional aides said they expect an announcement as soon as Wednesday.
BRIEF OF THE NEW SANCTIONS
Syria has already been under U.S. and EU sanctions that have frozen the assets of the state and hundreds of companies and individuals. Washington already bans export and investment in Syria by Americans, and transactions involving oil.
The new sanctions give U.S. President Donald Trump wider powers to freeze the assets of anyone dealing with Syria. It disregards nationality, and covers many more sectors from construction to energy.
The law also targets for the first time those dealing with Russian and Iranian entities in Syria, hitting allies of Assad.
The new legislation could label Syria’s central bank as a “primary laundering concern”.
The U.S. will lift the sanctions if the Assad regime meets six demands. They include ending the bombing of civilians, releasing tens of thousands of detainees and allowing “the safe and dignified” return of refugees. Where was Barack Obama during the five years he presided over the Assad killing machine?
THE CAESAR ACT REPRESENTS THE COUP D GRACE FOR ASSAD
The sanctions are expected to further deter investment in Syria and deepen Syria’s isolation from the global financial system. Syria experts say they end hope Damascus and Moscow once entertained of a global reconstruction effort.
The Caesar Act will hit Lebanon hard because the country is a traditional conduit of goods and finance for Syria. All businesses with links to Damascus will have to navigate the new risks, bankers say. Other business partners in neighboring Jordan and in the UAE are already on edge, abandoning plans to invest in Syria, businessmen say.
A recent collapse of the Syrian currency is due partly to the prospect of the new sanctions being applied. Wealthy Syrian expatriates will be discouraged from investing back home.
As economic conditions worsen further, there is also the possibility of a new wave of unrest. Syria witnessed rare demonstrations in the Druze stronghold of Sweida, a government-controlled area that remained aloof since 2011.
THE CAESAR ACT DOES NOT AFFECT SYRIANS
The new law exempts imports of essential food and humanitarian items but adds more scrutiny to U.N. and NGO aid to ensure they are not benefiting Assad’s government.
Some Western non-governmental organizations are wary of any impact on civilians. They are the ones who believe Assad’s government deserves the West punishment.
Reuters contributed to this article.