BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government benefited from variations in foreign currency exchange rates, boosting state coffers with at least $100 million in international aid money over the last two years, according to new research.
The currency manipulation deprives Syrians, most of them impoverished after a decade of war, of much needed funds. It also allows the Damascus government to circumvent sanctions enforced by Western countries that hold it responsible for most of the war’s atrocities.
“Western countries, despite sanctioning Syrian President Bashar Assad, have become one of the regime’s largest sources of hard currency,” said the report published this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization that focuses on international public policy issues.
“Assad does not merely profit from the crisis he has created,” the report added. "He has created a system that rewards him more the worse things get.”
On Friday, the United Nations acknowledged that exchange rate fluctuations have had “a relative impact” on the effectiveness of some of the U.N. programs, particularly since the second half of 2019 when the Syrian currency took a nosedive.
Francesco Galtieri, a senior Damascus-based U.N. official, said his office received the report on Thursday. "We are are carefully reviewing it, also to openly discuss it in the coming weeks with our donors, who are as concerned as we are that the impact of the assistance to the people in Syria is maximized,” Galtieri, team leader of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, told The Associated Press in a written response.