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How Caesar Act could hurt Lebanon's Tripoli

With residents of Tripoli already suffering shortages under Lebanon’s mounting system-wide collapse, the US Caesar Act promises to both hinder investment in Tripoli and increase cross-border smuggling.
TOPSHOT - A Lebanese woman stands next to her empty refrigerator in her apartment in the port city of Tripoli north of Beirut on June 17, 2020. - Lebanon's economic crisis has led to a collapse of the local currency and purchasing power, plunging whole segments of the population into poverty as exemplified by near-empty fridges in many households. (Photo by IBRAHIM CHALHOUB / AFP) (Photo by IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP via Getty Images)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon — The US Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act went into effect on June 17, promising to impose sanctions on any actor who provides significant business, military or reconstruction assistance to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In neighboring Lebanon, where hyperinflation and multiple financial crises are continuing since last year, the new law is likely to have a significant impact due to the country’s historically close economic relationship with Syria. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab called on the international community to “shield” Lebanon from the law’s sanctions during a conference in Brussels, Belgium on June 30.

The Caesar Act may have particularly acute implications for Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, which sits just 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Syrian border. The city has had a longstanding goal to become a regional logistics and economic hub and to act as a gateway for investment in Syria’s post-war reconstruction, and although some officials dispute the idea that disruptions will take place, it is now clear that US sanctions will deter any business or investment involving the Syrian government under Assad until there is a political transition in Damascus.

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