New U.S. sanctions threaten Assad regime and Hezbollah

Powerful, new Caesar Act sanctions against Syria target third party countries that support dictator Bashar Al-Assad, including Iran, Russia, China and Lebanon.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad has reportedly been on the brink of collapse dozens of times since civil war broke out in 2011, but having survived bombs and rockets the Syrian leader is now facing formidable new economic sanctions, Kan Radio reported Sunday.

The “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019,” which was passed last year by Congress, came into effect last week, named for the Syrian photo-journalist who “who bravely shared with the world thousands of photographs documenting torture in Assad’s prisons,” the U.S. State Department said.

“The law offers support for efforts to limit violence against civilians, and to hold the Assad regime accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Steven Heydemann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

While the Assad regime has managed to reclaim most of the territory it lost to Syrian rebels and Islamic State terrorists, Syrian reconstruction is still far off and billions will be needed to rebuild the shattered country.

The Caesar Law is looked at as a game changer. Caesar’s photographs showed a situation that was so brutal that it pushed the U.S. Congress to approve the law, which includes particularly stringent sanctions on anyone who creates economic ties with the Assad regime.

The new law dramatically expands the authority of the U.S. government to sanction businesses, individuals, and government institutions for economic activities that support Assad’s ability to wage war.

The Trump administration’s hawkish line following the departure of the nuclear deal has challenged the Iranian Ayatollahs and its supporters. In Tehran, the value of the Iranian rial has plummeted and inflation has skyrocketed, but the economic collapse the White House hoped for has not come.

In Lebanon, the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group is a key Assad ally and has a vast array of trade and smuggling ties with Syria, along with a Tehran-approved stranglehold on Lebanese politics.

The new American steps, in addition to other existing western sanctions, have targeted Lebanon, where the economy is galloping toward a crash. Beirut’s dilemma is clear – either surrender to Hezbollah’s interests and suffer the sanctions because of the close economic relations with Syria, or obey the new American law and face internal strife due to push back from Hezbollah and Iran.

The economic pressure exerted by the United States on the “axis of resistance” will be increasing due to the new sanctions, but it is too early yet to write the obituaries for those who bring misery to Syria. The deep Iranian ideologies not only drive Iran and its proxies, but could help them survive periods of severe austerity that the Caesar Act will bring, Kan Radio reported.