Disputes are raised by the US Caesar Act regarding the political future of the Bashar al-Assad, head of the Syrian regime. The disputes increased as the law will come into force next week, which caused deterioration in the economic situation. That situation led to protests erupted in the regime controlled areas.
Human Rights organizations have warned of a famine that might hit Syria, as the poverty rates have exceeded 80%, and the Syrian pound has dramatically fallen against the foreign currency, in addition to the lack of some basic merchandise.
German political analyst Michael Laubsch says that the first phase of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act came into force yesterday, US-law sanctions not only against Syria, but against anyone doing business with the Syrian regime in certain sectors, such as energy and construction. The name comes from the law of the anonymous photographer who has provided evidence of torture and murder in Syria since 2011. That is why the protection of civilians is also enshrined in the title of the Caesar Act.
But things are not that simple, according to Laubsch: The Caesar Act clearly falls into the category of a US foreign policy, which – simply explained – wants to achieve a result B through action A. In this case, the Bashar al-Assad regime is said to be so isolated and weakened by an economic collapse that the outcome of the nine-year war Assad won with the help of its supporters from Russia, Iran and Lebanon will be revised – if necessary through a collapse of the state. And if Lebanon, which was a branch of the Syrian economy even before the war, also collapses, the desired effect is also targeting Lebanon and Hizbollah. According to the analyst, all of this is not in the Caesar Act, on the contrary: there is no demand for Assad’s departure, but a correction of his behavior. The catalog of criteria that he has to meet is completely understandable from a humanitarian and legal point of view. Assad’s implementation, however, is almost unthinkable: he would have to take himself to court. Washington’s intention is different.
Knockout and Collapsing Economy
Amy Mackinnon, a US journalist, says that the Caesar sanctions are a threat for the already suffering Syrian economy. The sanctions will be a fresh blow for the embattled regime, the journalist notes.
The US new sanctions prevent all the international bodies and organizations of dealing with the Syrian regime and the bodies belonging to it or that have any links with it.
These sanctions are considered as the most punishing sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime since the start of the Syrian uprisings in 2011.
According to Mackinnon, the support of both Congress parties for the new sanctions means that there is an American desire to pressure Assad’s regime more, through increasing the blockade imposed on it, especially with the political pressures imposed on the US administration to vigorously enforce the new measures once they go into effect.
“While Assad appeared to be emerging victorious from the brutal war and talk had turned to reconstruction, a spiraling economy is now threatening his grip on power,” Mackinnon explains.
According to economic data, since last April until the beginning of June, the Syrian pound has lost around 70% of its value.
Politics Determined by Economy
The aim of putting Caesar Act into effect now is attributed to an American desire to prevent the Syrian regime from taking advantage of its military advance to control the entire country.
The US plan aims at maintaining the political instability through economic pressure, especially that Washington attempts to prevent Russia from benefiting of the economic privileges that it will gain from Syria if Bashar al-Assad stays in power.
During the past three years, Russia signed several agreements with the Syrian regime, through which it controlled the gas fields and ports. Moreover, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin has instructed to start talks with the Syrian regime to grant Russian armies immovable property and additional marine areas in Syria.
By imposing the sanctions, Washington is targeting the popular support for Assad, which played a significant role on keeping Assad in power.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has revealed the gravity of the humanitarian situation in Syria, in light of the high prices, especially with the rise in flour prices by 300 %, amid fears that the regime will no longer be able to import basic food materials.
Yunus Karim, an economic analyst, expects that the conditions surrounding the regime will increase the impact of the sanctions on its structure and power, especially the dispute between Assad and his cousin Rami Makhlouf.
Human rights groups and economic analysts accuse Makhlouf of being responsible for the collapse of the Syrian pound especially that he threatened earlier with catastrophic consequences on the Syrian economy, if the regime’s institutions continue to harass him and control his companies.
“Caesar is a continuation for previous sanctions imposed on the regime since 2011, and they were smart sanctions that included some figures linked with the regime,” Karim explains. He notes that sanctions pressure the regime’s allies to push towards a political solution, and reduce their influence in Syria.