US imposes new sanctions on Syria under Caesar Act

The Syrian government has denounced the US sanctions as illegal and an example of US’ “thuggish behaviour”

June 18, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Fresh US sanctions on Syria
Syrian community in the Czech Republic protested against the fresh US sanctions against Syria on June 18, Wednesday.

The US administration announced a new set of political and economic sanctions against Syria on June 17, Wednesday, under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection act. The act was enacted in the US in December 2019 and made part of the National Defence Authorisation act for the year 2020.

The Caesar act asks the government of Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, to halt military operations aimed at retaking territories captured by armed militias and rebel forces supported by Turkey and the US in Syria. The Syrian government has rejected the act, saying that it cannot allow such a division of the country.

The executive order 13894 issued by the US department of state on June 17 “includes menu-based sanctions including travel restrictions to the United States and isolation from the United States’ financial system for foreign persons who engage in or finance the obstruction, prevention, or disruption of a ceasefire or political solution to the conflict in Syria and members of their family, among other actions.”

Syria is already suffering under several sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union (EU). The fresh sanctions, which secretary of state Mike Pompeo called “the beginning of what will be a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure”, will cause further economic deterioration of Syria. 

The Syrian economy has been severely affected by an almost decade-long war, which has virtually halted all of Syria’s trade with the outside world. The country has seen a massive rise in unemployment and poverty, exposing US claims of the sanctions not hurting common people.  

Xinhua news agency reported that the UN special envoy to Syria, Gair Pedersen, said on June 16 that the sanctions imposed by the US and EU have been responsible for the economic collapse of Syria.

In anticipation of the sanctions on Tuesday, Syria devalued its currency, the Syrian pound, by 44%. The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the sanctions an example of the “thuggish behaviour” of the US and termed them a clear violation of international law and legal norms, Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Earlier this month, the Syrian government called the US sanctions on Syria “economic terrorism”, and alleged that the so-called Caesar act is based on lies and fabrications.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi called the Caesar Act “inhuman” and a violation of international law. He argued that “in the light of the coronavirus they [sanctions] exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people,” Fars News Agency reported.