US expands sanctions on Assad, blacklists 5 people, 9 entities

Wednesday's sanctions imposed by the US Treasury and the US State Department seek to deprive Assad government of funds.

    A woman walks past a poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Among the 14 blacklisted on Wednesday were al-Assad's son, Hafez, a Syrian businessman [File: Yamam Al Shaar/Reuters]
    A woman walks past a poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Among the 14 blacklisted on Wednesday were al-Assad's son, Hafez, a Syrian businessman [File: Yamam Al Shaar/Reuters]

    The United States on Wednesday imposed fresh sanctions aimed at depriving the Syrian government of funds and warned that Washington would blacklist anyone doing business with President Bashar al-Assad's government until he supports a negotiated end to the country's nearly decade-long war.

    The US Treasury blacklisted one person and nine entities, while the US State Department sanctioned four individuals. 

    Among the 14 blacklisted were al-Assad's son, Hafez, a Syrian businessman, as well as nine entities a senior US official accused of helping to fund the Syrian government's "campaign of terror", as well as the Syrian Arab Army's first division unit, among others.

    "The steady drumbeat of designations on persons and entities that support the Assad regime will continue until the regime and its associates cease obstructing a peaceful political resolution of the conflict" as called for by the United Nations Security Council, a senior US official told reporters.

    The sanctions, imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act and other measures, come as the Syrian leader grapples with a deepening economic crisis after more than nine years of war and a deepening economic crisis next door in Lebanon. 

    "While corrupt businessmen with ties to Assad invest in luxury real estate made possible by forced displacement of innocent civilians, they also worsen the oppression of the Syrian people," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: "Today we continue our campaign of sanctions designed to force Bashar al-Assad and his regime to cease their brutal war against the Syrian people and implement the political solution called for by UNSCR 2254. This is the only credible path to the peace the Syrian people deserve."

    Wednesday's actions marks the second round of sanctions imposed by Washington under the Caesar Act, which aims to deter "bad actors who continue to aid and finance the Assad regime's atrocities against the Syrian people while simply enriching themselves".

    Already, US and European Union sanctions have frozen the assets of the Syrian state and hundreds of companies and individuals. Washington has banned American exports to and investment in Syria, as well as transactions involving oil and hydrocarbon products.

    The new sanctions cover many more sectors, and they can freeze assets of anyone dealing with Syria, regardless of nationality. The measure also targets those dealing with entities from Russia and Iran, al-Assad's main backers.

    Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for widespread hardship among ordinary residents, where the currency collapse has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies