The Caesar Act and Opportunities for IranAlireza Majidi
The economy of Syria has suffered a lot of losses since the start of the war. The country’s infrastructures have been damaged to a great extent and require more than $400 billion to be reconstructed; there is also another estimation based on which the reconstruction would require over $1000 billion.
One of the outcomes of the collapse of the Syrian economy is the free fall of the Syrian lira. In 2011 and prior to the crisis, the exchange rate of Syrian currency for dollar stood at around 50 liras, but in the beginning of 2020, the exchange rate fall to 1400 liras. Currently, the exchange rate is almost over 3000 liras.
In this situation, Washington tries to put the Syrian government under more pressure through the Caesar Act. But what would be the geopolitical consequences of this act? Can the Islamic Republic of Iran seize the chance to promote its position in Damascus?
In political economy, there is an assumption that says authorities and he people in power are the ones who direct the economy. In other words, in order to understand macro policies of economy, we must take into consideration the personal interests of the rulers and authorities. Another aspect to regard is “[the Syrian] people’s tolerance and resistance” in the face of “foreign pressures” and a “shared enemy”. Now let’s review the consequences of the Caesar Act for Syria.
Caesar Act and Turkey’s opportunism
Turkey was one of the countries hoping for the implementation of the Caesar Act to proceed with its goals in Syria. With the implementation of the act which coincided with Syrian lira hitting new record low, Turkey made the Syrian opposition forces collect Syrian lira and replace it with Turkish lira in their territories in Northern Syria (including Naba Al-Salam, Dara’a al-Forat, Afrin, and Idlib). The residents of these areas (even people of Idlib) resisted the move but were quickly forced by the pro-Turkey opposition to comply. So the Syrian currency was omitted from the economic activities of Northern Syria.
The majority of the Syrian people are definitely opposed to the disintegration of their country.
It is clear that in the long run, such a move is a significant step in the way to the disintegration of Syria and annexation of those territories to Turkey. The majority of the Syrian people are definitely opposed to the disintegration of their country and that is why they resisted replacing Syrian lira with Turkish currency, even in Idlib.
Ankara also published a list of people who “committed war crimes”, including 100 Syrian political, military, and security authorities. Turkey tries to replace Washington’s list of 39 people with its own list. This way, the plan to replace Bashar al-Assad with a military or security official of his government and make room for different opposition groups in the future government can no longer be implemented, as Turkey’s long list includes almost all Syrian security and military figures.
UAE and the challenge of Caesar Act
Announcing the implementation of the Caesar Act, the US warned the UAE that Washington is totally serious in the sanctions against economic interactions with Syria and will not ignore any violation. The developments during the past three years show that the UAE is one of the countries that have serious plans for the future of Syria.
Abu Dhabi tries to take hold of the future of Syria and thus has strong cooperation with parts of the Syrian government. They know that besides other things, Syria is in need of “getting foreign aid to finance the reconstruction of the country” and “returning to regional diplomatic assemblies (such as the Arab League) and resuming its relations with Arab countries”, therefore, they try to show themselves as a reliable ally and savior to the Syrian government.
Maybe one can say the UAE had turned into one of Iran’s most important rivals in Syria.
In this regard, they encouraged some people in the Syrian government to invest in the UAE and later tried to make economic partnership with some influential figures of the country to create a deep unity between the two countries and proceed with their goals in Damascus. The UAE’s efforts have been successful to some extent as we witnessed the appearance of a pro-UAE party that called for reducing Iran’s role in the country, trying to distance Damascus from equations related to the Axis of Resistance. Maybe we could even say that the UAE had turned into one of Iran’s most important rivals in Syria.
Caesar Act, an opportunity for Iran?
The Caesar Act can create numerus opportunities for Iran.. The most important consequence of the Caesar Act is the expelling the UAE from Damascus. If the country succeeds in bypassing US sanctions and create secure financial channels for the Syrian government, Iran and Lebanon can use the same channels to bypass the sanctions through their influence on Assad’s government. If not, the UAE would be omitted from the equations in Damascus and one of the most important rivals of Iran would thus leave the scene and have no place in the equations of the future of Syria.
Another opportunity for Iran is that the plan to replace Assad with a different figure inside the Syrian Government
Another opportunity for Iran is that the plan to replace Assad with a different figure inside the Syrian Government could have less chance to be carried out. This plan is specifically supported by a group in Russia that want to replace Assad with a pro-Russian figure in whom they can rely. With the implementation of the Caesar Act, almost all such people will be sanctioned; therefore Assad’s status will be strengthened. And he knows it well that the most reliable support he can get from foreign states is definitely from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And the third opportunity for Iran is the increase in the tolerance of the Syrian people. With the free fall of the Syrian lira, there were political protests in different parts of Syria, even in regions with Alavi populations. Now that the pressure by foreign countries is increasing, we are going to witness an increase in the people’s tolerance; the national culture of Syria is sensitive to foreign interference and reacts negatively towards it.
Therefore, Iran can seize the chance to deepen its influence in Damascus. Reviewing the case of Venezuela’s sanctions and Iran’s actions in the respect would be good idea.