For the last decade, Syria has witnessed the most brutal form of ongoing civil wars. The war has destroyed the lives of millions while violating their basic human rights. Though in 2020, the war seemed to be finally ending with the Assad party winning. However, the United State’s caesar act will most likely change the tide’s course.
What is the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act?
The caesar act is a United States legislation. It sanctions the current Syrian regime for their war crimes against the Syrian population. Though the initial bill did not pass into law, parts of it were incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal, in 2020. Therefore, the original bill will most likely never be revised.
The act was named after a pseudonym used by the Syrian military officer. The officer leaked verified incrementing documents against the Assad reign. Moreover, The leaks included more than 50,000 photos documenting many acts of torture, human rights violations, and atrocities taking place in al-Assad’s prisons. Thus, after gaining bipartisan Congressional support, the act passed as part of the USA’s annual defense spending in December 2019.
This act aims to target politics, business, and banking supporters of the al-Assad regime starting from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and partners in Iran to Russia, Gulf states, and Europe. Individuals who will continue to support the Syrian government will potentially face travel bans or even arrest.
Hence, the act serves as a direct message to punish the Syrian regime’s allies. It also sends an indirect warning to the Gulf and some European countries who are trying to normalize their relations with the Assad government.
Concerning effects on Syria
Though many remain uncertain about the technicalities concerning the act’s imposition, all experts agree that the act will have huge and catastrophic effects. The result will create a very restrictive environment for anyone doing business with Syria. Hence, the private sector and humanitarian activities will suffer even despite technical exemptions.
Furthermore, the act might finally push the country to rock bottom. Since the act can be used as a two-edged weapon, it will not only impact the al-Assad government and its local and foreign backers, but also the humanitarian efforts and civilians in both Syria and Lebanon.
Moreover, despite the act’s aim to halt Assad’s attacks on Syrians and usher in a new government, civilian citizens believe that they will be most affected by its implementation. Farmers won’t find agricultural equipment while the demand to sell or export goods will decline. Unemployment in several sections will increase.
Also, civilians are predicting a huge increase in inflation. Thus, poverty rates are bound to increase.
Impact on Lebanon
For the past year, Lebanon has been suffering from an overwhelming economic crisis. Part of the problem is Hezbollah hemorrhaging $4 billion per year to Syria as hinted by the Central Bank governor Riad Salameh last month. The militia group is also suspected of smuggling weapons from Lebanon to Syria and vice versa. Thus, many believe that the act might offer a solution to this problem.
However, as a whole, Lebanon’s economy is highly intertwined with Syria’s private sector, which is also divided into two sections: one that is independent of the government, and one that is closely tied to it. Furthermore, Lebanon is considered a home to various Syrian shell companies, and Lebanese banks are full of cash from Syrian businesses. Thus, the Lebanese economy might suffer deeply from the limitations implemented by the sanction act.
On the other hand, others believe that the act will help affirm Lebanon’s independence from the abuse of Hezbollah. The Shiite group which aids the Assad regime will lose some of its power. Thus, Lebanon will regain some control over its devastating economy.
In brief, while there is no exact way to forthtell the results of the caesar act, they are guaranteed to be both powerful and concerning. Even though the act is legalized for a human cause, it doesn’t mean that innocent civilians won’t suffer because of it. Moreover, if the act does facilitate the end of the brutal civil war, then it is most probably worth the risk. On the other hand, the act can act as a catalyst for economic catastrophes in both Syria and Lebanon.
Fox, Tessa. “Syrians Fear Knock-on Effects of US ‘Caesar Act’ Sanctions.” The National, The National, 16 June 2020, www.thenational.ae/world/mena/syrians-fear-knock-on-effects-of-us-caesar-act-sanctions-1.1034100.
Ibrahim, Arwa. “Caesar Act: How Will New US Sanctions on Syria Be Different?” Middle East | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 16 June 2020, www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/caesar-act-sanctions-syria-200615103238508.html.
Kranz, Michal. “How Will America’s Caesar Act Impact Lebanon?” Al, Al-Monitor, 24 Dec. 2019, www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/12/caesar-act-us-sanctions-syria-assad-lebanon-business.html.
MARIA MAALOUF. “High Stakes on Syria as US Caesar Act Comes into Effect.” Arab News, 15 June 2020, www.arabnews.com/node/1690196.