New batch of US sanctions target Syrian regime

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter, “Today, the United States imposed sanctions on 17 corrupt Assad military, government and business leaders, as well as companies profiting from the Syrian conflict".
Thursday 01/10/2020
A file photo shows a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Arabic that reads, “Congratulations victory”. (AFP)
A file photo shows a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Arabic that reads, “Congratulations victory”. (AFP)

WASHINGTON – The United States imposed new sanctions on 13 entities and 4 individuals supporting the Syrian regime under the Caesar Act, which penalises companies that deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad, at a time when Damascus has come under the weight of sanctions imposed by Washington.

The US Treasury Department said on its website that the United States imposed on Wednesday a new series of sanctions related to Syria, this time targeting companies and individuals who support the Assad regime.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter: “Today, the United States imposed sanctions on 17 corrupt Assad military, government and business leaders, as well as companies profiting from the Syrian conflict. Their actions harm the Syrian people and unnecessarily prolong their suffering. Security Council Resolution 2254 is the only way forward. ”

Washington is seeking to pressure Assad’s government to return to the table of United Nations-led negotiations and reach an end to the civil war that began about ten years ago.

Last July, the White House announced that the United States would continue sanctioning Syria to increase economic and political pressure on Damascus.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said, “The new sanctions will be part of the ongoing campaign of political and economic pressure aimed at depriving the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of the resources it uses in the war against the Syrian people.”

She emphasised that “the US administration remains committed to a long-term political settlement in Syria, and the Assad regime and its sponsors must recognize that a political solution is the only viable mechanism to end the Syrian conflict in a peaceful manner.”

The Caesar Act, passed by Congress last year with bipartisan support, seeks to prevent Assad’s survival without accountability for human rights violations committed by his regime.

It also punishes any companies in the United States that deal with the Syrian regime. Washington is also prohibited from providing assistance for reconstruction, but it exempts humanitarian organisations from sanctions for their relief work.

The Caesar Act takes its name from a former photographer in the Syrian army who risked his life by fleeing the country in 2014 with 55,000 photos of brutal acts committed in Assad’s prisons.

In December 2019, the US Senate approved a package of measures and legislations, including the Caesar Act, which provided for additional measures against supporters of the Syrian army, especially Russia and Iran.

The Syrian regime has denounced the sanctions imposed on it through the Ceasar Act, which it says are coercive and “based on a set of lies and fabricated allegations by parties hostile to the Syrian people.”

Observers say the law appears to target Syria, but actually aims to penalise all countries that are involved, especially economically, in Syria, or considering engaging in any financial or economic operations in the country.

The third list included 14 entities and individuals, including Zuhair Tawfiq al-Assad and his son Karam al-Assad, and the first division in the Syrian army, along with the son of the president, Hafez al-Assad.

Under these sanctions, Hafez, who bears the name of his grandfather who held the presidency of Syria until his death in 2000, can no longer travel to the United States, where his assets will be frozen.

His mother, Asma al-Assad, was previously blacklisted in June. The Syrian president, in turn, is subject to US sanctions since the suppression of the protest movement that began against his regime in 2011, and soon turned into a devastating conflict that led to the killing of more than 380,000 people and the displacement of millions.