Thursday, April 14, 2016

Assad to Be Ultimate Beneficiary of HR 1493?

The Senate has passed HR 1493, a bill which imposes import restrictions on cultural goods removed illegally from Syria. The measure is not yet law because there needs to be conference with the House and new votes before one bill is sent to the President.  

The major differences between the Senate and House versions are that the Senate substitute includes a stronger "safe harbor" measure for Syrian antiquities and deletes a proposed State Department "Cultural Property Czar."     

Probably not coincidentally, the vote came the same day the well-funded and politically connected Antiquities Coalition unveiled its own proposals for more repressive measures and regulation largely aimed at the antiquities trade, museums and collectors.   Proposals for source countries are promised, but not yet revealed.  There appears to be no need for proposals aimed at what archaeologists can do to preserve cultural heritage.   

CPO attended the event.  CPO commends two speakers, Professor Patty Gerstenblith, and Dr. Al-Azm, for their acknowledgement that the Assad regime is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  Indeed, Prof. Gerstenblith stated in no uncertain terms that the Assad regime has probably killed more people, destroyed more cultural heritage, and looted more artifacts than ISIS.   The only difference is that Assad's forces don't use social media to publicize their evil deeds.

So, CPO remains skeptical of Dr. Gerstenblith's efforts to pooh pooh the concern that antiquities seized under HR 1493 will ultimately be repatriated to the Assad regime.   The CPIA -- which HR 1493 does not change-- certainly requires seized artifacts to be offered to the source country.  And given the realities on the ground or in the air in this case-- what with Russian air power bolstering the regime-- it certainly looks like Assad will be the victor to whom these spoils ultimately will be returned.  


Paul Barford said...

"it certainly looks like Assad will be the victor to whom these spoils ultimately will be returned"
I am interested in your use of the word "Spoils" here. What would be being returned under the CCPIA (which is what you talked of) would be objects which that US act defines as illegally exported from Syria and currently taken to the US. In what way are they then US "spoils"?

Cultural Property Observer said...

To the victor goes the spoils. In this particular case, the usage of the term is entirely appropriate.

Paul Barford said...

Syria really should not be asked to accept the RETURN of its stolen cultural property by the US as any kind of "spoils". Do you see the US as the "winners" of the Syrian civil war?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Okay, do you think the material Customs seizes under HR 1493 should be returned to the Assad regime?

If so, should there be any restrictions on the return, i.e., monitoring by ASOR archaeologists to ensure the material is not poorly taken care of or resold?

Paul Barford said...

Obviously it should be returned to the Syrian people, and who are you to decide who "really should" rule Syria and why? I think in this period of all-out civil war, with all the death and destruction, the stones and pots and past history are really not the most important issue. Which does not mean that I think greedy foreign dealers and collectors taking advantage of the mayhem should feel they have licence to steal them away.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Unfortunately, the force of arms will decide who will run Syria -- what the Syrian people may want does not seem to matter. And its looking increasingly that Assad will be the victor courtesy of Putin, Iran and Hezbollah.

Looks like you are again avoiding responding to anything that asks you to consider all the ramifications of your views in favor of insults.

My experiment allowing you to comment again on this blog may be over soon-- not worth the time or the aggravation.