On May 12, the US lifted sanctions off areas of northern Syria outside government control, permitting transactions in several sectors including agriculture and finance.
The US Treasury Department issued a general license authorizing activities in different sectors in parts of northeastern and northwestern without the fear of US sanctions.
Activities will now be permitted in the following fields: agriculture, information and telecommunications, power grid infrastructure, construction, finance, clean energy, transportation and warehousing, water and waste management, health services, education, manufacturing and trade.
The northwestern region of Greater Idlib, which is held by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, and the Turkish-occupied northern area of Afrin, were excluded from the general license.
Most of the areas covered by the license are controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The rest are held by the Turkish military and its proxies.
The Treasury Department warned that business with the Damascus government will still be illegal and subject to US sanctions. The department also said that the importation into the US of petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin will still be prohibited.
The US imposed crushing sanctions on all of Syria over the last few years on the hope of subduing the country’s leadership.
US acting assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland talked on May 11 about the license, saying it was aimed at helping a region previously controlled by ISIS.
Damascus stands to gain from the US license. To this day, government-held areas are still trading with the northern region which could soon become a hub for sanctions evasion.
Despite this, Damascus warned following reports about the near release of the license that the US move is meant to de-facto divide Syria. Now, areas held by the SDF and Turkish-backed militants will be able to trade like autonomous regions, unbound by Syrian or international laws.