Syrian Kurds say U.S. sanctions hurting them

U.S.-backed Syrian-Kurdish forces have said that sanctions on the Syrian government by the United States are hurting them as well and the consequences should be mitigated, Voice of America reported on Tuesday. 

Mazlum Abdi, commanding general of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said the United States has yet to exempt his Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES) from recent sanctions against the Syrian government.     

“The American representatives here on the ground, including those of the State Department, the Pentagon and the Coalition, have all promised us that the Caesar sanctions are not going to impact us,” Abdi told VOA in a phone interview.  

The sanctions, imposed last week, target companies that work with the Syrian government, particularly those involved in construction, energy and engineering.      

They are under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, or Caesar Act - named after a Syrian military photographer Caesar who defected in 2013 and smuggled out thousands of photos documenting torture of people by the Syrian security forces in government prisons.  

Despite U.S. promises that such sanctions only target Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, Abdi said the United States should help the Syrian Kurds through a current financial crisis.

“We need some concrete steps, especially in terms of support, monetary and financial support, so that we can cope with the difficulties that the sanctions have brought on our region,” Abdi. 

The SDF has been a major U.S. partner in Syria in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).