By: Salem Hafez & Jawad Salman
Some countries' constitutions allow their legislative power to pass laws to impose economic sanctions on another country regarding political or economic reasons. Such legislation could pass smoothly in some countries where the executive branch power is largely vested in the constitution, although the concept of checks and balances, such as the United States of America.
The last eight years have witnessed a series of economic sanctions that have been imposed on the Syrian government by the
Arab League, the European Union and the United States of America.
In this context, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee ratified in September 2017 a bill that was approved by the US House of Representatives on November 15, 2016 unanimously, which provides for the imposition of political and economic sanctions for ten years against the Syrian government primarily and to any country or organization supporting it, especially those dealing with the Central Bank of Syria. This bill was named Caesar, Syria Civil Protection Act of 2019.
On January 23, 2019, the Senate passed this bill after making several amendments. This means that it will return to the House of Representatives for approval after the amendments. If approved, the House of Representatives will submit it to the President of the United States for signature and final ratification.
Dr. Salem Hafez
Jawad Nabhan Salman
Lecturer, Faculty of Law
An-Najah National University
Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act was introduced as a bill for the first time in 2014, but the new bill has extended the sanctions to ten years instead of two years. The bill includes articles on how to deal with the Central Bank of Syria and monitor its work to determine what it is and whether it involves money laundering or not.
The bill regulates special procedures if the US government is assured that the Central Bank of Syria had committed one of the acts mentioned above. It also included several other provisions relating to the same subject, including Section 1 of Title 1, which stipulated that the US Secretary of the Treasury had to determine, not later than 180 days from the date of issuing this law, whether there are logical reasons to conclude that the Central Bank of Syria has basic activities related to money laundering operations.
Caesar, basically, targets the Syrian government, including any party under its control, as well as any high-level official political figures, such as politician, the military officers, and the government representatives. It also targets any foreigner, military contractor or paramilitary if they are acting intentionally and militarily within Syrian territory with or in favor of the Syrian Government. These sanctions extend to the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Iran.
A foreigner subjected to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 US Code § 1701) is also subjected to the jurisdiction of the law in relation to Syria or any other legal provision imposing sanctions on Syria (section 1, paragraph (2)(ii)(a) of Caesar).
In addition, Caesar applies to anyone who sells or offers goods, services, information, technology or other support that contributes significantly to the maintenance or expansion of the Syrian government's domestic production of natural gas, petroleum or other petroleum products.
Caesar also applies to those who deal with the Syrian government in air transport, aircraft spare parts or any spare parts used for military purposes for the Syrian government or any foreigner operating in an area directly or indirectly controlled by the Syrian government or by foreign forces connected with Syrian government or any person providing engineering services to the Syrian government.
The penalties provided by Caesar that applies on foreigners (non-Americans) represented in not granting new U.S. visas with the possibility of revoking previous visas. In addition to sanctions that focus on blocking of ownership of the people who own property in the United States and freezing their bank accounts in US banks.
On the other hand, the application of this sanction involves many complexities and it needs to declare a State of National Emergency by the President of the United States. Caesar conforms to the provisions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act that US citizens are not allowed to enter into commercial deals or financial activities or transactions or export and re-export operations with any persons or entities to whom the provisions of Caesar apply.
If Caesar becomes law, it will put great pressure on the Syrian economic system and its collaborators economically, especially in the stage of reconstruction of the Syrian state, which many countries are racing to contribute in, and to reopen their embassies in Syria and reactivate diplomatic relations with the Syrian government and to return of Syria to the Arab League. This pressure will be reflected clearly on the economic movement of many corporations and businesses that have dealings with the Syrian government, as they will be subject to these sanctions, which will lead to the decline of business transactions and restricting their treatment in US dollars as a first currency in the global financial market.
The implementation of Caesar will reflect negative effects on the US economy and the global economy over long term, as these sanctions will force many American corporations around the world to cancel direct and indirect businesses with countries, entities, and persons who have financial transactions and business with the Syrian government, including the businesses that have been agreed in and begun to be implemented earlier.
It seems like that the biggest victim of this bill would be the Syrian people. The economic sanctions that have been imposed during the last eight years of the Syrian war left the vast majority of Syrians suffers from severe shortages of food, Gas, motor fuel, medicines, and medical supplies and electricity.
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