Does the temporary suspension of US sanctions against Syria help overcoming the earthquake outcomes?


On February 9th, the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury issued General License No. 23, known as GL23, which temporary suspends sanctions on Syria, which was applied on the country under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, 2019.

The temporary suspension will allow aids, and necessary transactions to reach the country, which has suffered along with Türkiye with a devastating earthquake last week.

The temporary suspension will be for 6 months only as of February until August 8, 2023.

The license 23 clearly states that its intent is to permit the transfer of funds to and from Syria for the specific purpose of facilitating earthquake-related relief efforts, and for no other purpose.

The money transferor bears the responsibility to prove the connection of its transfer to seismic relief efforts, and the license exempts US financial institutions and exchange companies from the responsibility to prove the transfer’s connection to seismic relief unless they know in advance, or have reason to know, so literally, that they aren’t connected to it.

This lifting of sanctions on transferring funds to Syria for the purpose of financing seismic relief efforts doesn’t apply to the Syrian government or any of its institutions or branches, including the Syrian Central Bank, and doesn’t apply to any company or association controlled by the Syrian government, directly or indirectly, inside and outside Syria.

It also doesn’t apply to any person working for any of these entities.

Finally, the US Department of the Treasury explained that, the License 23 doesn’t exempt anyone from compliance with any other relevant US federal law.

The press release posted in conjunction with License 23 on the US Treasury website states that it’s a continuation of its policy of easing humanitarian sanctions for the United Nations, NGOs, and the US government so that they can engage in financial transactions in support of certain non-profit activities (i.e. not all) in Syria.

The US Treasury press release said that the US Treasury will continue to monitor the situation in Syria, and will continue to engage with key humanitarian and disaster relief actors, including NGOs, international organizations, and key partners and allies, to understand the key challenges they may face in providing services in Syria.

The License 23 confirms the ban on importing Syrian oil and its derivatives into the United States, except with a special permit, according to Section 542.208 of the sanctions against Syria.

The License 23, firstly is directed at international and US institutions, their affiliated non-governmental organizations, and US allies in the region.

It excludes everything related to the Syrian government and its institutions and companies from exempting the transfer of funds for relief purposes, especially the Central Bank of Syria.

This means that any relief effort must take place away from the Syrian government.

Secondly, the License 23, is partial specific and temporary, and it doesn’t drop an accumulated sanctions that deprives Syria of medical equipment and machinery, which allows Syria to carry out real relief work, on top of which are the main pillars of the Caesar Act that targets the oil and gas sectors, reconstruction and aviation in Syria.

It’s noteworthy that the Central Bank of Syria imposed sanctions on it since 2004, which effectively removed Syria from the international financial system.

The License 23, claims that humanitarian materials aren’t subject to US sanctions.

Thirdly, contradicts a new US penal code, the Captagon Act, whose implementation mechanisms will be announced next June, and which directly threatens the Syrian pharmaceutical sector.

Fourthly, the License 23, represents an attempt to absorb the mounting popular pressure after the earthquake in order to lift the siege on Syria.

Fifthly, the License 23 represents a way out for the Arab countries that are effectively besieging Syria, even if the decision to blockade is actually an American.

Finally, the US administration wouldn’t have had to issue License 23 had it not been for the increasing momentum of the popular campaign to lift the siege on Syria.

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