The U.S. Treasury Department has issued a general license (no. 16) authorizing U.S. persons wherever located to provide services, directly or indirectly, to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. U.S. persons are otherwise prohibited from supplying services to Syria by an existing executive order.

General License 16 does not authorize the exportation, reexportation, sale or supply of services in support of the exportation or reexportation to Syria of any item on the U.S. Munitions List. General License 16 also requires that any transfer of funds to or from the Coalition under the General License must be via the Coalition’s U.S. office through an account at a U.S. financial institution licensed by OFAC for that purpose.

Two things about General License No. 16 are most curious.

One, the executive order that otherwise prohibits U.S. persons from supplying services to Syria also prohibits the exportation, reexportation, sale or supply of services from the United States by anyone, not just U.S. persons. General License No. 16, the new general license, however, does not authorize the exportation, reexportation, sale or supply of services from the United States unless by a U.S. person.

General License No. 16 would not, therefore, appear to authorize a company in Germany, for example, to reexport U.S.-origin services to Syria from Germany. It would, however, authorize a U.S. person in Germany to export German-origin services to Syria. It’s hard to see the policy purpose behind services provided by U.S. persons and services of U.S.-origin provided by others unless it is to keep non-U.S. persons from being able to participate in the provision of U.S.-origin services to the Coalition.

Second, the new general license expressly provides that it “does not authorize” any transaction with a person whose property or interests in property are blocked under existing U.S. sanctions against Syria. Yet General License 4A, issued in April of 2012, expressly authorizes the provision of services to such persons if ordinarily incident to an export or reexport authorized by the U.S. Commerce Department. These provisions are either inconsistent with each other with respect to Commerce Department authorized transactions or the term “does not authorize” is intended to be construed as nothing more than an OFAC statement about what General License No. 16 does not cover rather than what it does not permit, a most curious way of expressing things.

General License No. 16 needs clarification or is deliberately obscure about its full meaning for reasons one can only guess at.