Assad slams new wide-ranging US sanctions, saying they're part of drive to 'choke' Syrians

Caesar Act is latest in US imposed sanctions on Syria

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 12 August 2020 16:54 EDT
Passengers aboard Iranian flight over Syria scream in fear as jet approaches

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lashed out at US sanctions on the country, claiming the measures were part of the US's continued efforts to destroy Syrian's living standards.

Mr Assad gave a speech to his deputies at his presidential palace on Wednesday in which he claimed the sanctions were meant to "choke" the nation and destroy the lives of Syrian civilians, Reuters reported.

The leader blamed new US sanctions - called the Caesar Act - for a drop in Syria's currency, which resulted in Syrians buying dollars over fears that their economic situation would worsen.

Mr Assad claimed the sanctions were part of the US's economic war against the country, and called for the nation to root out corruption that was wasting public dollars and to enact measures that would promote food self-sufficiency.

"The Caesar Act is not a separate case, it is another phase in stages of sanctions that preceded it for years and which have caused huge damage," Mr Assad said during the meeting.

The Caesar Act went into effect on 17 June and is the most wide-ranging set of sanctions the US has ever levied against Syria.

The sanctions target 39 individuals and entities within Syria, including Mr Assad.

Under the new sanctions, oil and gas construction have been targeted for possible sanctions and an investigation into whether or not Syria's Central Bank has been involved in money laundering activities.

It also calls for sanctions on any person or entity that knowingly provides significant aid to the Syrian government or other regime-affiliated mercenaries, contractors or paramilitary groups, which would include those affiliated with Russia and Iran, who are allies of Syria. The sale of military aircraft has also been brought under sanction, citing incidents of helicopters dropping barrel bombs on civilians as justification.

The new sanctions come at a difficult time for Syria, as the country faces its first substantial spike in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began earlier this year.

Reports from both within Syria from Mr Assad's regime as well as monitors outside the country have reported that Covid-19 cases in the country were among the lowest in the world.

Recently, however, the number of cases have been rising.

According to The Washington Post, Syrians are posting obituaries and memorials to friends and family members lost to the virus, suggesting the pandemic is beginning to worsen within the war-torn nation.

A Syrian healthcare worker told NPR that hospitals were being overrun with coronavirus patients and that doctors were severely lacking in personal protective equipment and were under staffed.

Many doctors are afraid to speak out about the state of the virus in Syria, as state intelligence agents watch the hospitals to ensure information does not leak.

Ahmed Habas, a physician working as the deputy director of health in Damascus, posted infection estimates to his Facebook page that said there had been 112,500 infections in and around the capital.

He later deleted the post over fears that it might encourage criticism of the Health Ministry or cause fear among the populace.

A mortuary official reported that 40 patients die of the virus every day in Damascus - the nation's capital - alone, and that number is likely low, as reports indicate only the sickest patients seek medical treatment.

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