Posted on June 17, 2020 by Ali Hachani
Written by Ali Hachani, former Ambassador
Translated by Anouar Ben Messaoud
As these lines were being written, the anti-Syrian law (Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act) will have entered into force. It was enacted by the United States Congress at the instigation of the Administration of President Trump and possibly Israel and its powerful lobby in Washington. In fact, the American Administration decided to publish, on June 17, 2020, a “first” list of individuals and entities regarded as falling under this legislation, which will have a lifespan “of at least five years.” By naming this law “Caesar,” which is the code name of a military police photographer who reportedly defected from Syria in 2013 taking with him a lot of photos shot inside prisons showing “the barbarity of the Syrian regime,” they want to legitimize the decision on the grounds of humanitarian considerations when, in fact, they are hiding undeclared political goals.
While running out of ideas and being powerless in the face of the resistance shown by the regime and the majority of the Syrian people behind it for almost a decade despite multiple destabilization attempts, Washington has come up with the “final solution” before the eyes of a silent “civilized” world, as well as a paralyzed and divided Arab world with its “League” that is as weak as ever. The seven stipulated conditions to lift the sanctions, each as difficult as the others, cannot in any case be achieved by force on such a proud people and regime.
The obvious success of the Syrian government to largely protect its people against the Corona pandemic despite the sanctions already imposed on it, and the regime’s intention to get ready to embark on a reconstruction operation after having restored its control over most of the national territory, have set off alarms with those who see in such developments further proof of their failure in neutralizing a country that adopts positions which prevent them from acting freely in the Middle East region. This approach would fall within the framework of regular struggle for influence between competing powers were it not for the dreadful consequences it causes to the Syrian people and other neighboring peoples as well as the additional disturbances for the regional and world economy and for international relations in general.
In fact, according to the US Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo, the new law would be only the latest episode in a series of punitive acts against the Syrian regime, “until it stops its needless, brutal war against the Syrian people” (sic!).It will not only apply to Syrian personalities and companies placed on a black list and who are subject to freezing of their assets, banning their access to the international banking system and to entering the American territory, but will also extend to all foreign persons or entities deemed to provide “significant support” to the Syrian economy and who may thus be subject to American penalties. It is understood that Iranian and Russian entities are mainly targeted, but also those of Lebanese origin, which will be particularly affected at a time when this neighboring country is experiencing its most acute economic and political crisis. It goes without saying that these measures will undoubtedly be applied with a high degree of rigor, which the American administration knows exactly how to do. As was the case with Iran, this will further reduce Syria’s foreign trade and the possibility of recourse to the international banking system and consequently the means of obtaining raw materials and even those of basic necessity, which the civilian population needs. It is indeed an economic and financial embargo that is not clearly announced!
Of course, people who want to ease their conscience say that food and medicine are exempted. But, how can these products be purchased while the cessation of transactions between Syria and the outside world will drain the country’s foreign exchange assets? In fact, this situation is reminiscent of the fate forced on the regime of former President Saddam Hussein in the early 90s of the past century, which saw the imposition of the same strict embargo with the complicity of the rest of the international community and even of the United Nations at that time, accompanying it with a “humanitarian” program called “oil for food,” which succeeded only in driving the Iraqi people into begging while Iraq was falling apart. The Iraqi regime ended up being overthrown, but to date Iraq has not yet recovered from the devastating impact of the embargo, going through an external invasion, a civil war, terrorism, political instability and a general impoverishment, while swallowing up a huge amount of billions of dollars from the pockets of American taxpayers. What a strange way of defending the civilian population and human rights in Iraq yesterday …and in Syria today! Unless they seek to overthrow the Syrian regime by street demonstrations of a hungry population (a beginning of such a movement has already been reported in Damascus) before an outright military invasion… as it occurred strikingly in Iraq…
In addition to the negative effects of this new American law on Syria, its people and its neighboring countries, it will contribute to further deteriorate international relations by extending the so-called “secondary” or “extraterritorial” sanctions that have always been the subject of dispute between States, and will further disrupt international trade as the world needs more economic stability to ensure its transition to the post-Corona era. The law will also slow down normalization of relations between Syria and the other Arab countries, such as the first signs we have recently seen. Such normalization could have contributed to bringing more stability to the entire region, including perhaps in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What a strange way to strive for peace and prosperity in the world!
Shall we expect some resistance from the international community to this new measure whose only beneficiary will be the Israeli and American extremist camp, which has definitely not stopped earning victories during this period of President Trump’s first term? Can we count on a sudden Arab awakening so as not to repeat the error of abandoning Iraq to its fate? One can always hope, but there still remains a very great deal of doubt…