Washington's Syria envoy James Jeffrey delivered its most scathing remarks on the UAE’s cosying up to the Assad regime, clarifying Abu Dhabi would not be exempt from financial measures outlined in the Syria Caesar Act.
Washington has delivered rare condemnation of the UAE over its ongoing rapprochement with the Assad regime, as sanctions targeting anyone doing business with the dictator came into effect on Wednesday.
Speaking during a press conference to mark the enactment of the Syria Caesar Act, US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey, said that the US would not exclude the UAE from punitive measures should it violate the terms of the sanctions.
Under the landmark measure, anyone found to be involved in financial dealings with the Assad regime and associated individuals, would be liable for sanctions themselves.
“Anyone who engages in economic activities, whether in the UAE or in other countries...may be targeted by these sanctions,” Jeffrey said.
The senior US diplomat also rebuked Abu Dhabi for its years-long policy of rapprochement with the Assad regime.
“The UAE knows that we absolutely refuse that countries take such steps,” he said referring to developments including the reopening of the UAE embassy in Damascus, further describing the move as a “bad idea”.
‘Bribes’ and praise
Despite his close alliance with their archenemy, Iran, UAE officials have sought to build a close relationship with Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.
After initially giving its support for the rebellion, Abu Dhabi changed sides the moment the regime got the upper hand thanks to Iranian and Russian intervention.
The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018 and within a year, its ambassador there was praising Assad for his ‘wise’ leadership and expressing his hopes for ‘Arab unification’.
Abu Dhabi has strongly supported Assad’s campaigns against opposition forces in northern Syria even though the main target of these assaults have been ordinary Syrians, many of whom have fled their homes in other parts of the country.
In April it was revealed that the UAE had given a bribe worth billions to Assad on the condition he resumed an offensive in Idlib that risked humanitarian disaster for millions of Syrians.
If the US follows through on its threat of sanctions, it could end up creating difficulties for Emirati businesses looking to cash in on the commercial opportunities reconstruction projects as the regime looks to make itself attractive for investors.
Syrians, including members of the regime, have also used the UAE as a financial hub where they can park their money given the turmoil inside Syria.
Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s cousin, has interests in the emirate of Dubai, and his children have long flaunted their jet set lifestyle on Instagram.