On September 30, Wednesday, the US announced fresh unilateral sanctions on war-ravaged Syria. The US treasury department, in a statement, said that sanctions have been placed on 13 Syrian entities and six individuals.
Similar to previous sanctions imposed by the US and the EU, the current round of specific sanctions are unilateral and not recognized by the international community, including the UN.
The main entities which are listed for sanctions are Syrian companies in the telecommunication, tourism and technology sectors. The sanctions also target individuals, including the governor of the Syrian Central Bank, Hazem Younes Karfoul, head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, Husam Mohammad Louka, and Commander of the Syrian Army’s 5th corps, Milad Jedid, among others.
US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to justify the unilateral sanctions as an attempt to force the Bashar al-Assad-led Syrian government to come to the UN-led negotiations on the basis of UNSC resolution 2254 aimed at ending the decade-long war in the country. In a statement, he said that, “the United States will continue to employ all of its tools and authorities to target the finances of anyone who profits from or facilitates the Assad regime’s [alleged] abuse of the Syrian people.”
Wednesday’s sanctions follow the previous set of financial sanctions imposed on Syria in June this year under the so-called Caesar Act of the US congress. The Caesar Act was passed in the US congress in December 2019, and allows the US administration to put political, economic and diplomatic sanctions on Syria. These sanctions have reportedly prevented Syrians from acquiring imported drugs. Some of the companies supplying these drugs withdrew their licenses due to fear of being sanctioned.
According to UNSC resolution 2254, peace can only be achieved in Syria through a political process and peaceful negotiations among all the parties in the country.
Meanwhile, the existing EU and US sanctions are seen as among the main hurdles to the reconstruction process in Syria, which includes the return of millions of Syrian refugees. The current round of sanctions are expected to further complicate the economic situation in the country, already battered by the decade-long war and recent COVID-19 pandemic. The US ability to impose third party sanctions can force other countries to abandon their engagements with the sanctioned entities.