On June 4, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued the Syria-Related Sanctions Regulations (SRSR).  Not to be confused with the pre-existing Syrian Sanctions Regulations found in 31 C.F.R. Part 542, the SRSR, which are found in 31 C.F.R. Part 569, are intended to implement Executive Order 13894, Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria (October 14, 2019; the Executive Order).[1]  We previously wrote about the broad authority to impose sanctions against a wide range of individuals and entities under the Executive Order here.  The impact of the Executive Order and the SRSR will depend, of course, on the scope of the actual sanctions imposed.  As of today, only the current Syrian Minister of Defense is designated on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List) maintained by OFAC pursuant to the Executive Order.[2]

Also, beginning June 17, 2020, the secondary sanctions provisions of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (the Act) will take effect.  The Act, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 enacted into law on December 20, 2019, calls for the President to impose sanctions on foreign persons that knowingly engage in activities covered by the Act (which we wrote about here) beginning 180 days after enactment.  The U.S. government already had the authority to impose sanctions for certain activities covered by the Act.[3]  Nonetheless, as with other secondary sanctions programs targeting Iran, North Korea, and Russia, the Act has an optical impact and could ramp up political pressure to impose sanctions.  Application of secondary sanctions is highly discretionary as to likelihood, scope, and warning/negotiation prior to imposition.

[1] It is not clear why the SRSR could not just have been incorporated into the existing Syrian Sanctions Regulations.

[2] OFAC designated General Ali Abdullah Ayoub on March 23, 2020.  In connection with issuing the Executive Order on October 14, 2019, OFAC previously added the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Turkish Ministry of Defense, and the Ministers of the Interior, Energy and Natural Resources, and Defense to the SDN List.  OFAC subsequently removed the Turkish officials and ministries from the SDN List on October 23, 2019.

[3] The Act authorizes the U.S. government to sanction any person or entity that engages in significant transactions with the Government of Syria.  The U.S. government already had the authority to do that under Executive Order 13582, Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to Syria (August 17, 2011).