The Washington Free Beacon reported according to congressional sources that the Biden administration is expected to waive sanctions on Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to facilitate an energy deal with Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the administration wants to waive portions of the bipartisan Caesar Act, which applied wide-ranging sanctions on Assad for his war crimes in Syria, to facilitate an energy deal with Arab nations that would provide the Assad regime with a financial and political lifeline.
Congressional sources told the Washington Free Beacon that Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa who was caught having an extramarital affair with a reporter in 2008 while serving as the Obama administration’s ambassadorial nominee to Iraq, is pressing Egypt to sell gas to Lebanon via a pipeline that runs through Syria.
The Biden administration would have to waive key sanctions on Assad in order for the deal to go through.
The the Washington Free Beacon said that as Biden and Democrats in Congress signal a willingness to back sanctions relief, Republican foreign policy leaders say removing sanctions on Assad will embolden his Iranian backers as well as Hezbollah. Indeed, Hezbollah itself sees the deal as a victory in its fight against U.S. sanctions and efforts to expand the Islamic Republic’s influence across the Middle East, saying it will loosen restrictions on all three countries involved: Syria, Iran, and Lebanon.
Joe Wilson, a House Foreign Affairs Committee member and chair of the Republican Study Committee’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Task Force, told the Free Beacon: “Why in the world would the Biden administration lift sanctions on one of the most brutal human rights abusers in the world—the Assad regime?”
According to a congressional source, the deal will supply the Assad regime with much-needed hard cash.
The source said: “Assad is desperate for hard currency and that’s what they are going to get from this via the transit fees.”
The Washington Free Beacon mentioned, diplomats from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan met on Wednesday to finalize a roadmap for the energy deal and have signaled the Biden administration is prepared to issue the necessary waiver.
Dorothy Shea, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said she has also been in contact with the White House and Treasury Department as part of efforts to waive sanctions.
“There is a will to make this happen,” Shea said in an interview with Al Arabiya English last month. “There will be some logistical things that need to happen too, but I think that it will all fall into place fairly easily.”
The Washington Free Beacon added that Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), during a trip last week to Lebanon, signaled his party’s willingness to back sanctions relief for Assad.
Van Hollen said of the energy deal: “The complication as you know is the transport via Syria.”
He added, “We are [urgently] looking for ways to address that despite the Caesar Act.”
Shea and other Biden administration diplomats believe the energy deal will weaken Iran and Hezbollah because Lebanon would receive energy shipments through Syria instead of Tehran.
But top Hezbollah officials refute this argument. A senior Hezbollah official gloated about the deal after Shea claimed it would undermine the terror group’s grip on Lebanon.
The Washington Free Beacon noted that the Biden administration began laying the groundwork for bypassing the Caesar Act in June when it removed sanctions on several businessmen tied to the Iran-Assad financial network.
Source: Washington Free Beacon