Dr. Mouhib Salha
The United States of America has always used the economic sanctions of various shapes, types and gradations to achieve direct political, and indirect geopolitical and strategic purposes, as it is the first economy in the world and the owner of a national product of about twenty trillion dollars. The economic and technological sanctions were used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, these sanctions were among the important factors which contributed to its downfall and the collapse of its communist regime.
It also uses them in its economic war in the face of China, the Commu-Capitalist, which has become a strong competitor to the United States with a national product of more than twelve trillion dollars, and it used them against the Communist Cuba.
For thirteen years, the U.S. economic sanctions have also succeeded in exhausting Iraq and in the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, and it is using them now against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The U.S. would not hesitate to use the sanctions as a weapon in any international matter, no matter how high or insignificant insofar as those sanctions are in its own interest, or the interest of the world order which it leads and manages.
From this, the U.S. waited several years of the age of the Syrian crisis until the Syrian social fabric was destroyed, and the destruction of stone and people has reached the highest point, in order to pass the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act” including the economic sanctions on entities and persons in the Syrian government that are added to previous sanctions whose impact wasn't significant, and on every country that provides any form of support for the regime as long as it doesn't progress towards a political solution based on the U.N. resolutions, especially Resolution 2254, as the regime didn't release all of the political detainees who were forcibly detained and not allowing the international human rights organizations to intervene completely in order to conduct appropriate investigations in this regard. Likewise, if it doesn't meet the required standards to achieve justice and accountability for war crimes and their perpetrators, and to conduct a real and reliable reconciliation process.
It is clear that the Trump administration intended to issue the "Caesar Act" at this time, specifically to send three important political messages, the first is to the Syrian regime that, the U.S. supports its rehabilitation, but on its own terms. The second is these terms suggest the extent of America's keenness to address the humanitarian file, files of the detainees, the transitional justice and the national reconciliation. The third is to Russia, Syrian regime's ally, which includes any solution for the Syrian crisis would not pass without the United States, and any uniqueness of Syria by it, is rejected by the U.S., it is also a message to Iran that, Iran has no place in Syria if it doesn't change its behavior.
Before the beginning of the implementation of "Caesar Act", the Syrian economic junta sensed the danger of the American economic sanctions on its narrow interests, so it rushed to hedge and dissociate from it in advance, in light of a suspicious governmental silence and a blatant indifference towards facing the repercussions of this law.
This reflected negatively on the Syrian economy, as it accelerated the process of collapsing the value of the Syrian pound (lira) which started several months before "Caesar Act", and the slip in the prices of goods and services in the local market away from any economic or moral controls.
If the percentage of those under the poverty line before the collapse of the lira exchange rate exceeded 60%, it now exceeds 90%, meaning the Syrian people in the whole country, with the exception of a few not exceeding a tenth of the population, has become under the poverty line and they are in urgent need for assistance to be able to live with human dignity at a minimum.
The government's latest punitive legal measures regarding dealing with the dollar in the local market or talking about the deterioration of the national currency were nothing but security-coercive measures, as their positive effect, if not negative, is limited and temporary on the national economy and on the exchange rate of the lira, and at the same time it reflects the regime's inability in saving the economy from collapse by economic means and tools in the face of the U.S. sanctions.
The reality of the impact on the Syrian people
By more than one official, the Syrian government has stated that "Caesar Act" will only affect the Syrian people, and this is an unquestionable fact, as the totalitarian, military, civil or theocratic regimes aren't affected by the economic sanctions because of their great ability to endorse their interests through populist propaganda accompanied by a severe security grip, and well-informed media in falsifying the facts and realities. Therefore, the economic sanctions may weaken them in the long run, but they don't drop them.
A big country like Iran, for example, hasn't witnessed a civil war, and it has great economic resources, its people no longer bear the repercussions of the American economic sanctions, as they revolted against the theocratic and totalitarian regime in which the U.S. sanctions strengthen it on its people and do not weaken it. So, how could people who were crushed by a proxy civil war to bear more burdens, such as the "Caesar Act?”
The Syrian regime has the ability to maneuver and circumvent the economic sanctions, as long as it is based on a strong back, like Russia, it won't respond to the American terms whether political or humanitarian, and it will be able to reverse the effects of "Caesar Act" on the Syrian people, who have begun to grow restless under the pressure of the deterioration of their living conditions.
The beginning of this restlessness was expressed by the movement "We want to live" in the southern governorate of al-Suwayda, which may turn into a public Syrian movement or a hungry revolution, which will restore a stolen revolution to its owners, the Syrian people, and put it on its true path.
The effect of "Caesar Act" is subject to terms
The positive impact of "Caesar Act" on the political track of the Syrian issue is subject to:
First, the extent of the pressure which the U.S. administration may exercise on the Kremlin within the framework of "Caesar Act,” and reaching a political understanding between the American and the Russian administrations on the form and the substance of the solution in Syria, and imposing it on the internal conflict parties and their regional allies.
Second, the extent to which the United States is convinced in avoiding the Syrian people from the economic sanctions, if it intends not to target them, depends on the response of the United Nations to its needs of food, medicine and clothing … This in turn is related to the extent of the conviction of the U.N. Security Council and its ability to implement a special program for Syria in the manner of the Oil-For-Food Program, which was implemented by the United Nations in Iraq, especially since the Syrian oil is mostly under the control of the U.S. and some under the control of Russia, or the aid program for all Syrians at home under its auspices and supervision.
On the other hand, the Syrian government’s ability to face the repercussions of "Caesar Act", if it targets it, depends on the extent of its response to the rightful demands of the Syrian people in the democratic political transformation, the fight against corruption and the non-creative chaos, saving the Syrian economy from deterioration via rapid, financial, monetary, productive, administrative and emergency measures, and not to neglect the rights of the Syrian people in their national soil and natural resources.
Apart from this and that, the Syrian crisis will remain swinging between the interfering and active countries in it, and the only affected from the repercussions of the U.S. "Caesar Act" will remain the Syrian people at home, nobody else.