New U.S. sanctions against the Syrian government will likely leave Damascus dependent on Russian and Iranian support, while deterring aid from potential future partners such as China and the United Arab Emirates. On June 17, the United States sanctioned 39 individuals associated with the Syrian government, including President Bashar al Assad and his wife. Washington also indicated that more sanctions were to come in order to force the Syrian government back into U.N.-led peace negotiations.
With stronger U.S. sanctions now in effect, countries that have previously shown interest in providing Syria aid are unlikely to see many opportunities in the war-torn country's reconstruction. The Syrian economy — already wracked by nine years of civil war, the loss of vital trade due to nearby Lebanon's economic meltdown, and the now likely spread of COVID-19 inside Syria — has very few ways to reverse its current downward trajectory without reconstruction, which the U.N. estimates will require $500 billion in foreign aid. But Syria's closest allies, Russia and Iran, are unwilling and unable to provide that sum due to their own constrained budgets, which has left Damascus looking for other potential partners, including the United Arab Emirates and China. Following sanctions, however, these countries and their businesses are unlikely to risk incurring potentially powerful U.S. sanctions in pursuit of economically limited reconstruction contracts in Syria, leaving Damascus with Moscow and Tehran as its primary links with the international community.
New U.S. sanctions will likely leave Syria dependent on Russian and Iranian support, while deterring aid from potential future partners such as China and the United Arab Emirates.
The sanctions will also exacerbate Syria's already dire economic situation, which is producing dissent from inside Syrian loyalist territories, and increasingly threatens the stability of the al Assad family's hold on the state. The financial fallout could undermine the Syrian government's military capabilities, creating a more permissive environment for militants, including those affiliated with the Islamic State and al Qaeda, to regroup and potentially expand their operations in the country.