Concerns mounted in Lebanon over the US Caesar Act that goes into effect in mid-June, which would put more pressure on the government as it holds strenuous negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain aid that essentially requires the implementation of reforms, mainly at the illegal border crossings with Syria.
Approved by the US Congress in December 2019, the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act stipulates that anyone who provides any assistance or support to the regime in Syria shall be subject to sanctions.
Ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Cabinet would discuss the US legislation during a meeting on Thursday.
The government had issued a statement saying that it was in the process of studying the impact of this law on Lebanon and the margins in which it could operate without causing negative repercussions on the country.
While Industry Minister Imad Haballah said that the law would not have any repercussions on the government, ministerial sources, in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, said: “There is no doubt that this law has implications for Lebanon; The country is the closest to Syria with its borders open to it, but we have to monitor its implementation, in light of which the Lebanese position will be determined.”
Nizar Zakka, a former detainee in Iran, who works today on the Caesar Act team, stressed that the relevant sanctions were not directed against Lebanon.
“Rather, it requires the country to cooperate to avoid any measures against it at a later time, specifically in the financial and banking relations between Beirut and Damascus, and to stop the smuggling once and for all,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Zakka revealed that expected sanctions would target Lebanese allies to Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, but noted that the legislation would represent “the last hope for the Lebanese missing in Syrian prisons since the Lebanese civil war, who are estimated at 630 people, the existence of whom is denied by the regime.”
He also said that a Syrian witness revealed to the team working on the law that he had met a number of them in a prison in Syria a year and a half ago.
Regarding the expected sanctions against figures allied the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, Zakka said: “From now on, no arguments will be accepted to justify relations, especially commercial and financial, with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. Those will be exposed to the sanctions that will be announced in four groups from June 17 until the end of August.”
He warned that all institutions and people, who have already started their businesses in Syria under the slogan of reconstruction, would have to stop their activities or be subject to sanctions.