AMMAN - Washington's decision to arm opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and reports of Gulf military aid to rebels have sent the Syrian currency plunging to a new record low, currency dealers and bankers said on Monday.
Traders across Syria reported widely fluctuating rates and two currency dealers in Damascus, where the pound appeared to be hit hardest, said it fell below 200 to the dollar for the first time in what one described as panic buying of the US currency.
On Monday evening the pound traded at 205 to the dollar, down 20 percent in four days and 77 percent down since the start of the anti-Assad uprising in March 2011 when it was at 47.
"It's total chaos. Demand for the dollar has increased with the news...of the Americans preparing military help to rebels," said Assem Salman, an exchange dealer in the bustling Sabaa Baahrat in downtown Damascus
"Anyone who gives you a price, don't take his word. The dollar has gone mad and reached the 200 level ... Nothing seems to stop this dollar chaos," he said by phone from Damascus.
Dealers said the turmoil was fueled by White House comments that Washington will step up military aid for Syrian rebels, hardening stances by the Arab world's heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and calls by Sunni Muslim clerics for holy war.