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New U.S. sanctions on Syria

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New U.S. sanctions on Syria took effect 17 June 2020, targeting anyone directly or indirectly funding Bashar al-Assad’s regime or contributing to its military campaigns. This is announced to be the beginning of a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure to deny the Assad regime revenue and support it uses to wage war and commit mass atrocities against the Syrian people.

The new set of measures, also referred to as the "Caesar Act", is named after a Syrian military police defector, operating under the pseudonym "Caesar", who smuggled out thousands of photos of corpses in Syrian government detention facilities.

Amongst other entities and individuals, the Syrian first lady, Asma al-Assad, is named in the first round of these new U.S sanctions. "I will make special note of the designation for the first time of Asma al-Assad, the wife of Bashar al-Assad, who with the support of her husband and members of her Akhras family has become one of Syria’s most notorious war profiteers. Now anyone doing business with any of these persons or entities is at risk of sanctions.", the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said in a statement. The full list of designations can be found here.

Travel restrictions and isolation from the U.S.' financial system

The order includes sanctions such as travel restrictions to the United States and isolation from the United States' financial system for foreign persons who engage in or finance the obstruction, prevention, or disruption of a ceasefire or political solution to the conflict in Syria and members of their family, among other actions.

More specifically the sanctions target foreign persons who facilitate the Assad regime by knowingly providing significant financial, material, or technological support to or knowingly engaging in significant transactions with the Government of Syria, military groups supporting the Assad regime or foreign persons subject to sanctions pursuant to law that imposes sanctions with respect to Syria. Moreover sanctions target the regimes' military, construction and engineering activities, as well as aircraft and petroleum industries.

What is different compared to previous U.S. and EU sanctions on Syria, is that the Caesar Act is far broader in terms of is sectorial targeting, in addition to targeting anyone, anywhere in the world, seeking to conduct business in Syria, or with the Syrian government. The new U.S. sanctions on Syria is particularly relevant for the offshore and shipping industries, as well as financial and insurance institutions indirectly involved by supporting entities that may potentially be exposed to U.S. sanctions.

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