The intensity of the Caesar Act’s repercussions on Lebanon has been disputed since the Act went into effect in June.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker recently shed light on this issue, indicating possible exceptions for Lebanon.
According to Schenker, the Caesar Act should not hurt Lebanon but will only harm “the Lebanese who want to deal with the Assad regime or make deals on behalf of the Assad regime.”
It is worth noting that the Act draws a line between Syria – as a country – and its president’s regime, according to an expert who worked on it.
Regarding Lebanon’s exports to Arab Gulf countries, Schenker stated that arrangements can be made to exempt them from the sanctions.
That is to note that the region’s countries, most notably the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, are some of Lebanon’s most important export markets along with South Africa and Iraq.
With that said, however, Schenker’s explicit mention of Gulf countries leaves an important question unanswered.
Considering Iraq is a prime customer of Lebanon’s and recently offered to develop trade networks with the country, will Lebanon’s exports to it be affected or inhibited by the Caesar Act and its sanctions?
The U.S. official, who pointed out that the Act will end Syria’s ability to “use Lebanon for money laundering,” stressed that the U.S. has been a keen observer of Lebanon’s negotiation with the International Monetary Fund.
He said that the Lebanese government has not done much to progress the talks.
“It would be an exaggeration to say that the government of Lebanon is involved in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund,” Schenker declared.
He explained that some discussions between the country and the IMF have not yet reached the actual negotiation stage, noting that the government is still “trying to sort out how much money Lebanon has in its accounts.”
After giving Lebanon its last chance to progress the talks and perform the tasks required of it to unlock its aid, the IMF warned Lebanese officials against lowering losses from the country’s financial crisis.