The Caesar Act officially took effect on Wednesday, June 17th, amid evaluations of how it will affect Lebanon. While the Act primarily targets the Syrian regime, a Lebanese expert warns that it is best for Lebanon not to overlook it.
It is clear that the sanctions imposed through the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act target all entities, companies, and individuals that provide any assistance or support to the Syrian regime.
However, Nizar Zakka, the Director of Program Development at the PeaceTech Lab in the U.S, who has worked on the Caesar Act, told Arab News, “We, in Lebanon, have never benefited from any deal that was carried out by the Syrian regime.”
Zakka, who was imprisoned by Iran from 2015 until 2019 on charges of espionage for the United States, said Lebanon’s deals with the regime have all been “one-way deals,” and that they will stop now that the Act came into force.
With that said, he asserted that the security cooperation between Lebanon and Syria will not be affected by the Caesar Act.
Similarly, it will not stand in the way of drawing electricity from Syria, which has been a major concern for Lebanon when it comes to the Caesar Act.
The expert explained that there is a distinction to be made between the Syrian Arab Republic, per se, and President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime; the Act targets the al-Assad regime, not Syria itself.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that Lebanon should ignore the Act. After all, it will target any individuals and companies that do business with the Syrian government, not excluding Lebanese individuals and companies.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the United States is the decision-maker and implementer when it comes to the Caesar Act, and so the circle of sanctions may expand to have more effects on Lebanon, directly or indirectly, as developments unfold.
Therefore, “if we take a look at the sanctions against Iran, which are American and not international, we can sense the extent of damage that Lebanon may know if the Act is overlooked,” Zakka indicated.
On a similar note, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Daily Star that the “Caesar Act sanctions are not directed at Lebanon’s economy or the Lebanese people” and dismissed claims that it will lead to the country’s starvation.
Rather, the spokesperson explained, it is directed at any foreign company working with the Syrian regime.
In light of the Caesar Act taking effect on Wednesday, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, met with Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti and discussed the implications of the Act and its sanctions on the country.