Syria Devalues Currency ahead of New US Sanctions
Syria’s Central Bank raised the exchange rate for the Syrian pound from 704 to 1,256 pounds to the dollar on Wednesday, just hours before tough US sanctions were slated to take effect. According to analysts, the bank was seeking to ease pressure on citizens who have been turning to the black market to purchase dollars, where the rate hit 3,500 pounds to the dollar this week. The new US sanctions are aimed at numerous companies and individuals, among them President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma. They are designed to prevent an influx of foreign currency in an effort to force Assad to return to peace talks aimed at ending a civil war that is now in its tenth year. Bashar and Asma are not the only Assads facing financial difficulties. The president’s uncle, in exile in France, faces a court ruling handed down on Wednesday ordering the seizure of all his assets, valued at about $110 million, for having invested in French real estate with funds said to have been stolen from Syria’s Treasury. Rifaat al-Assad, brother of the late Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, was also given a four-year jail sentence. A strongman in the Assad regime, he fled to France after being accused of planning a coup against his brother in 1984.