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Politics

New rewards for tip-offs on Syrian regime violations

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Syrian president Bashar al-Assad meets with Iranian officials in Damascus. Syrian activists believe the recent US bill to offer financial rewards to informants reporting the regime's violations will help further restrict the regime. [Photo via SANA]

The US Congress has passed a new bill that will expand the US Department of State's Rewards for Justice programme to encourage informants to come forward with intelligence regarding violations of US and UN sanctions.

This step will help to hold some of the world's most nefarious regimes to account and will make it harder to skirt sanctions, US Congressman Joe Wilson said in a November 18th social media post.

US House Resolution 4802 amends the Rewards for Justice programme to authorise rewards for information regarding persons, companies and entities engaged in activities in contravention of US or UN sanctions.

The bill will tighten the screws on the Syrian regime and constrain its financial and military capabilities -- a move intended to curtail the killing of Syrian civilians and facilitate a political solution to the conflict, Syrian activists said.

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The smuggling of fuel derivatives is the most common illegal commercial activity by companies close to the Syrian regime. [Screenshot from a SANA video]

It will authorise rewards for information on violations of US sanctions by the Syrian regime and its affiliated entities, companies and individuals, Syrian lawyer Bashir al-Bassam told Diyaruna.

Previously, rewards were offered to those who provided information about terrorists, he said. Now there are rewards for tip-offs on exporters and importers of US goods and technologies for the purpose of trade, in violation of sanctions.

Al-Bassam said he expects this will prompt many people to help the authorities uncover large networks that provide support and funding to the Syrian regime and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates.

These networks are especially critical to the IRGC in light of the increasing financial restrictions it faces amid crippling US sanctions, he said.

Defections expected to increase

The Syrian regime's inner circle is experiencing dire financial straits and internal disputes, Syrian activist Mohammed al-Beik told Diyaruna.

With the incentive of a reward, some might be motivated to report prohibited commercial activities, he said, noting that the bill guarantees the confidentiality of the informant's identity and the amount of money they receive.

Al-Beik expects that many people will defect from the Syrian regime following this amendment, especially those who possess information related to crimes committed by the regime.

Defecting is challenging at present, he said, as it requires financial resources and guaranteed protection, which has prevented many from taking this step, especially government and military personnel who possess key information.

Syrian activists often submit information reporting the regime's violations, he said, not for money but "out of patriotism, with the aim of curtailing its military operations against civilians in the areas that remain outside its control".

But financial incentives are necessary, he said, and will "motivate those who possess key information and need money to leave regime-controlled areas due to the sensitivity of their posts".

Illicit commercial activity at risk

Syrian economist Mahmoud Mustafa told Diyaruna the Syrian regime, through its association with Russia and Iran, established hundreds of small and medium companies globally to help keep money flowing to its coffers.

The uncovering of these companies and entities is now relatively easy, thanks to US sanctions, he said, as tracking any imported commodity or commercial deal struck outside the country will lead to those involved inside Syria.

This can be achieved by tracking activity through land, sea and air ports and the goods transported to the regime's military sites and markets, he said, thereby expanding the circle of civilians, government employees and military personnel who could report such activities.

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