Treasury official heads abroad to build case for Iran, Syria sanctions

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On Wednesday, the Treasury announced it was sanctioning the Syria International Islamic Bank for providing services to other sanctioned Syrian banks.

The SIIB has "surreptitiously" assisted in nearly $150 million in transactions on behalf of the Commercial Bank of Syria, which had been marked in August for sanctions, according to the Treasury. The department wielded charges that the SIIB facilitated "substantial" payments from the sanctioned Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, as well as handled a payment from that bank to "an entity of proliferation concern."

Under the sanctions, American entities are barred from doing business with the banks, and any assets tied to the banks that fall into U.S. possession are frozen.

"Today’s action will add to the economic pressure on the Assad regime by closing off a key evasion route. The Treasury Department, working with others around the world who share our goal of ending the brutal repression of the Syrian people, will continue to close off the Assad regime’s access to the international financial system," said Cohen on Wednesday.

The Obama administration has ramped up pressure on Assad in response to his violent crackdown of civilian protests. The recent killing of more than 100 civilians, including dozens of children, in Houla has led the United States and other nations around the globe to expel Syrian diplomats.

Cohen will also use the trip to build common ground on global efforts to battle organized crime syndicates, as well as terrorist groups that are increasingly engaging in kidnapping for ransom as a means of financing their efforts.