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US to Announce Sanctions Exemptions in Areas Falling Outside Syrian Regime Control

US to Announce Sanctions Exemptions in Areas Falling Outside Syrian Regime Control

Saturday, 12 March, 2022 - 06:30
Two US soldiers in Qamishli in northeastern Syria. Asharq Al-Awsat

The administration of US President Joe Biden has been putting the final touches on a major decision to exempt investors and private companies from US sanctions and the Caesar Act in areas falling outside the control of the Syrian regime in northern and northeastern Syria.

The decision includes the areas controlled by the US-backed “Syrian Democratic Forces” in northeastern Syria and the “Euphrates Shield” forces linked to factions supported by Turkey. But Washington rejected to include the two “Olive Branch” regions in Afrin because of the presence of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” that is considered a terrorist organization by the UN Security Council.

The exemptions were discussed by Ethan Goldrich, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, with responsibility for the Levant and Syria engagement, earlier this month in Washington with the envoys of Arab and Western countries and Turkey.

Goldrich also visited Turkey, northeastern Syria, Iraqi Kurdistan and other states.

According to Washington, the exemptions aim on the one hand at supporting the “Syrian Democratic Forces” in the war against ISIS and on the other to improve the economic situation and limit poverty, which is the main reason for extremism.

But Turkey has expressed reservations at the US support for the SDF which is led by the Kurdish YPG that Ankara considers a terrorist group. It has also regretted that the US exemptions would not include the Turkish-run “Olive Branch” regions and Idlib.

Furthermore, Turkey has criticized steps taken by some European countries in giving “political legitimacy” to the Kurdish self-administration and the “Syrian Democratic Council,” which is the political wing of the SDF.

Arab countries have also expressed concern that Washington’s exemptions would “consolidate Syria’s division” and the “failure to respect Syria’s sovereignty in line with Security Council Resolution 2254.”

Syria is divided into three zones of foreign influence. One falls under the control of the government through Russian-Iranian support and includes 65% of Syrian territories. The second covers 23% and is run by the SDF through US backing, while the third zone falls under the control of Turkey-backed opposition factions.

Once the Biden team takes the final decision on the exemptions, the US Treasury will make the announcement that will not cover oil and gas although the East Euphrates region includes 90% of Syrian oil and half of its gas output.

Former President Donald Trump decided in 2019 to keep around 900 US soldiers East of the Euphrates and al-Tanf base to “protect oil,” prompting Damascus to accuse Washington of “stealing” its oil.

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