Hezbollah: New US sanctions aim to ‘starve’ Syria, Lebanon

WASHINGTON—Mr. Sanction happy Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ukrainian Jew, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed passage in the House of Representatives of his legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria’s Assad regime and its supporters.

Authored by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman right-wing Ed Royce and Ranking right-wing Jewish Member Eliot Engel in the House and right-wing Senators Marco Rubio and Jeanne Shaheen in the Senate, the bipartisan bill cuts off the flow of resources to the resistance group Hizballah. The legislation passed the Senate on Oct. 11 and was signed into law on Oct. 25.

Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is one of the most pro-Israel hawks in the House of Representatives. Engel is one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful foreign policy voices.

Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, put it clearly, “Forgive me if I cast a tad of doubt on the humanitarian intentions of a President who locked little kids up in cages and tried to cut the State… [Department budget] by 40%.” Murphy means Trump, not Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — New US sanctions against the Syrian government aim to “starve” the country and its neighbor Lebanon, the head of the Lebanese resistance organization Hezbollah said Tuesday.

“The Caesar Act aims to starve Lebanon just as it aims to starve Syria,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

“Syria has won the war… militarily, in security terms and politically,” he added, describing the law which comes into force Wednesday as Washington’s “last weapon” against Damascus.

The US law targets companies that deal with President Bashar Assad’s regime, which Hezbollah, Tehran and Moscow support in Syria’s conflict.

It imposes financial restrictions on the Damascus government to compel it to halt “attacks on the Syrian people,” and it is expected for the first time to target Russian and Iranian entities active in Syria.

The Syrian government and loyalist businessmen are already targeted by US and European economic sanctions.

After nine years of war, Syria is mired in an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crisis in Lebanon, a major conduit for regime-held regions.

A large chunk of Syria’s population is living in poverty, prices have soared and the value of the Syrian pound has hit record lows against the dollar on the black market.

Nasrallah also accused the United States of engineering the collapse of the Syrian currency, but vowed that Assad’s allies would stand by the regime.

“The allies of Syria, which stood by its side during the war… will not abandon Syria in the face of economic warfare and will not allow its fall, even if they are themselves going through difficult circumstances,” he said.

Iran sanctioned

Lebanon too is experiencing the worst financial meltdown since the end of its own 1975-1990 civil war, as well as being rocked by months of anti-government protests.

Nasrallah called on the Lebanese government “not to submit” to the Caesar Act.

The United States on Tuesday warned Assad that he would never secure a full victory and must reach a political compromise.

Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, urged him to accept a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, elections and political transition along with UN-led talks.

“The Assad regime has a clear choice to make: pursue the political path established in Resolution 2254, or leave the United States with no other choice but to continue withholding reconstruction funding and impose sanctions against the regime and its financial backers,” Craft said.

“The Trump administration will take decisive steps to prevent the Assad regime from securing a military victory, and to steer the regime and its allies back toward special envoy Pedersen and the UN-led political process,” she said.

Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, has succeeded in winning back virtually all of Syria except the Idlib area after a nine-year war that has killed more than 380,000 people.

The Caesar Act, passed by the US Congress last year with bipartisan support, seeks to prevent Assad’s normalization without accountability for human rights abuses.

The law penalizes in the United States any company that deals with Assad and blocks reconstruction assistance from Washington.

The law is named after a former Syrian military photographer who fled at great personal risk in 2014 with 55,000 images of brutality in Assad’s jails since he launched his crackdown on protests three years earlier.

With Syrian and Russian forces mounting a major offensive in Idlib, a UN-backed constitutional review aimed at reaching a peaceful solution has made little progress.

Pedersen told the Security Council that he was willing to resume constitutional talks in Geneva in late August.

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