Additional easing of Syrian sanctions is expected by mid-November according to staff at the US Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Asset Control.
Obama, PutinPressure on Obama from Putin as part of the ‘price tag’ for Russia’s role with bailing out the American president with the chemical weapons ‘redline’ which became a canard is one reason. Another reason is that the White House believes that it needs to communicate to Damascus that prospects for better relations and even some cooperation are not completely destroyed as a result of the 32 month crisis still raging in the Syrian Arab Republic.
There are currently three types of sanctions that the U.S. government has imposed against Syria. The most comprehensive sanction, called the Syria Accountability Act (SAA) of 2004, prohibits the export of most goods containing more than 10% U.S.-manufactured component parts to Syria. Another sanction, resulting from the USA Patriot Act, was levied specifically against the Commercial Bank of Syria in 2006. The third type of sanction contains many Executive Orders from the President that specifically deny certain Syrian citizens and entities access to the U.S. financial system due to their participation in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, association with Al Qaida, the Taliban or Osama bin Laden; or destabilizing activities in Iraq and Lebanon. Please consult our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to find answers to our most commonly-asked questions about how sanctions may affect you and your business.
Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act
In May 2004, the President signed E.O. 13338 implementing the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SAA) which imposes a series of sanctions against Syria for its support for terrorism, involvement in Lebanon, weapons of mass destruction programs, and the destabilizing role it is playing in Iraq.
The second recent easing of Syrian sanctions will show more balance and neutrality than those of last June which were widely perceived as designed to support the rebels and weakening the Assad government just as the Assad government began gaining ground back from the rebels.
Syrian refugeesAs part of the change in US sanctions against Syria, licenses for exports of certain goods related to reconstruction of infrastructure were allowed in areas held by the rebels. Specifically, the US Office of Financial Assets Control indicated that license applications would be accepted for commodities, technology and software related to water supply and sanitation, agricultural production and food processing, power generation, oil and gas production, construction and engineering, transportation, and educational infrastructure. Most benefited would be rebel held areas. In additional, the US Treasury Department’s Statement of Policy indicated that OFAC will now consider on a case-by-case basis applications to permit services in the Syrian telecommunication industry to enable private persons to better access the Internet and in the agricultural sector. Certain petroleum transactions benefiting the rebel forces were also authorized. Finally, OFAC revised Syria General License 11 and replaced it with General License 11A authorizing NGOs to engage in certain activities designed to preserve the cultural heritage of Syria including museums, historic buildings and archaeological sites.
The new lifting of sanctions, tentatively scheduled to be announced next month, will help the Assad governments because international banking and trade prohibitions are expected to be reduced. At the same time, US officials are discussing with their Russian “partners” a number of proposals that would acknowledge the right of the Syrian people to choose who to support in next year’s Presidential elections without Washington insisting that currently Syrian President Bashar Assad step down as part of a “transition to democracy.”
In addition, the White House is telling Congressional leaders, for all to hear, that the various press reports suggesting that is recently waived restrictions on providing arms to the Syrian rebels, is much more limited that the main stream media have claimed. In fact, the Executive Branch waiving of portions of the Arms Export Control Act only to authorizes a specific transaction providing defense articles to “vetted” members of the opposition and to NGOs in Syria. The defense articles are described as those “necessary for the conduct of … operations inside or related to Syria, or to prevent the preparation, use, or proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons.” Who the “vetted” members are is not specified nor are the particular articles involved detailed. Significantly, the White House claims, this is not a general waiver but is only a waiver with respect to one specific contemplated transaction. Defense companies do not now have a blanket license to ship their wares to the Syrian opposition. This is because Section 40(g) of the Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2780(g), specifically gives the President authority to waive the provisions of the Act with respect to a specific transaction if he finds that the waiver is “essential to the national security interests of the United States” and he makes the requisite report on the waiver to Congress. The determination makes that finding and directs the Secretary of State to make the required report to Congress.
The main opposition to White House plans to lessen the civilian targeting sanctions comes, as usual, from the US Congressional Zionist lobby as it seeks to prevent any lessening of US sanctions against Iran first and Syria second. Two days of talks are about to begin in Vienna between experts from the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) and their Iranian counterparts, who will discuss technical issues relating to Teheran’s nuclear program and international sanctions. The meeting will help lay the groundwork for the next round of diplomatic negotiations, scheduled to take place in Geneva on November 7-8 and it is anticipated that the White House will accede to EU and Russian proposals to send a reciprocal good faith response to Tehran and lift some of the US civilian targeting sanctions. Although the P5+1 and Tehran have agreed to keep the contents of their negotiations secret, the general aim of the talks has been for Iran to reduce its capacity to enrich uranium and certain other nuclear activities in return for relief from sanctions, which are strangling the country’s economy. The main hurdles include verification of any concessions Iran makes and the sequencing of any reduction in sanctions.
Signs of progress were apparent earlier this week by comments made after separate talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a rare joint statement, both sides called the talks “very productive” – a significant difference from their eleven previous meetings in recent years, which failed to make progress in resolving what the IAEA has called the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program. The statement also indicated that a document discussed in past meetings has been set aside and a new approach has been taken.
The Obama administration is eager for negotiations to succeed, though it has also stated that, like the Zionist lobby is repeating that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” If the talks fail, international support for sanctions would likely begin to fall apart, reducing U.S. leverage.
With the world watching, particularly U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, as well as regional “friends” like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia the White House, reportedly interested in lifting some of the sanctions on Syria and Iran if facing stiff opposition from Tel Aviv and Riyadh with both governments criticizing the United States for its lack of resolve in Syria and its apparent conciliatory attitude toward Iran.