us-sanctions 25 June 2020

Syria’s autonomous Kurds seek exemption from US sanctions

Syrian Kurds, who fought alongside US forces against the ‘So-called Islamic State’ (‘IS’) in Syria, have expressed concerns that promises of an exemption from the newly-implemented ‘Caesar’ sanctions for their semi-autonomous enclave in the north-east of the  country, might not be kept.

‘‘They (the US) told us the self-administration regions will be exempt from the Caesar sanctions but the mechanisms and means to achieve this exemption are being discussed with the international coalition,’ Badran Jia Kurd, a vice president of the regional administration, has told news agencies.

Sinam Mohamad, a US-based representative of the Syrian Democratic Forces (a largely-Kurdish alliance of militias), has said that authorities in northeast Syria fear the sanctions could impact their economy as it struggles to recover from IS destruction. She said that she was unsure whether the region, known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, would be declared exempt from the sanctions, something which, she said, had been promised by the US deputy special envoy to the anti-IS global coalition, William Roebuck.

That assurance, Mohamad said, was ‘a positive stand.  But it’s still unclear what are the procedures that will be put in place to exclude this region from the sanctions.’

There has been no official comment from the US government about Kurdish exemptions from the Syria sanctions.

On 17 June, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (‘OFAC’) sanctioned 24 individuals and entities which it said were ‘actively supporting the corrupt reconstruction efforts of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  They included the first designations under the Caesar Act.  Nine of them were designated ‘for their significant support to the Government of Syria,’ according to a press release by the US Department of the Treasury.