US Customs has published a very extensive list of "Syrian" artifacts now restricted pursuant to the "Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act." Coin collectors should special take note that that the "designated list" includes all coins minted and circulated in Syria through the Ottoman period.
Now that restrictions are in place, two important enforcement issues remain. First, will Customs only detain, seize and seek the forfeiture of artifacts on the new designated list "unlawfully removed from Syria on or after March 15, 2011?" Or, will Customs revert back to its current extralegal practice of detaining, seizing, and seeking the forfeiture of anything that looks remotely like it appears on the designated list and then require the importer to "prove the negative?" One can only hope that the explicit directions of the measure's sponsor, Congressman Elliot Engel, emphasizing the limits on Customs' discretion will control.
Second, what will happen to any artifacts that are seized and forfeited under the regulations? When the "Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Implementation Act" was first introduced, there was a real hope the Assad regime would be replaced by a far more Democratic alternative. No more. So, will Customs and the State Department still follow current practice and repatriate the artifacts to the Syrian Government which means the Assad regime? And, if so, what does that really say about the wisdom of the statute and the US Government's current emphasis on repatriation over preservation?