Syria thrust into economic crisis following currency collapse

Assad government condemns upcoming sanctions

Syria                                 

The value of the Syrian pound (SPY) has plunged rapidly in recent days, thrusting the embattled Middle Eastern nation into a worsening economic crisis.

According to the Arab League and the United Nations, 400,000 people have died in the civil war that has raged in Syria since March 2011. While the worst of the fighting has passed, the economic consequences of the conflict continue to take their toll.

Before the war broke out $1 bought £S47. This figure now officially stands at around £S700. However, like a number of nations in the region, such as Lebanon or Iran, the genuine exchange rate on the ground tends to be higher.

From Saturday to Monday this exchange rate surged from £S2,300 to the dollar to over £S3,000 .

With food prices increasing 152 per cent in some regions of the nation, the latest devaluation has intensified anxieties and provoked the first popular demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad in government-held territory for some years.

While the protests remain local, shops across the nation have closed their doors, struggling to cope with the rapid price movements.

The weekend’s protests were most vocal in the southern city of Suwayda, which has a majority Druze population.

The minority community generally supported the Assad government, especially when faced with the extremism of the Islamic State. Indeed, Issam Zahreddine, a Druze, served as one of the Syrian Arab Army’s most famous soldiers.

With the civil war winding down and the economic sanctions imposed on Syria by the West and its allies continuing, this unity could threaten to break down.

In a video interview over the weekend, the US envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, argued that the Assad government “contributed to the collapse of the value of the Syrian pound,” adding that “the Syrian regime is no longer able to manage an effective economic policy, or launder money from Lebanese banks, due to the economic crisis that is already affecting Lebanon.”

Further American sanctions, dubbed the "Caesar Act", will come into effect later this month. As well as tightening the screws on the Syrian government, these measures will target individuals and firms who provide assistance or funding to the nation and its industries.

Alluding to these proposals the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated: “This American policy, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the most basic human rights and international humanitarian law, will fail again in the face of the Syrians insistence to adhere to the sovereignty of their homeland and the independence of their political and economic options.”

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