Obama administration lifts sanctions on rebel-controlled parts of Syria

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Secretary of State John Kerry signed a waiver authorizing the Department of Commerce to process license applications for export and re-exports of “commodities, software, and technology, including but not limited to those related to water supply and sanitation; agricultural production and food processing; power generation; oil and gas production; construction and engineering; transportation; and educational infrastructure.” Food and medicine exports don't require a license.

“These items are intended to help address the critical needs of the Syrian people and facilitate reconstruction in liberated areas,” the State Department said.

Separately, the Treasury Department on Wednesday invited U.S. businesses to apply for licenses allowing “oil-related transactions that benefit the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, or its supporters, and transactions involving Syria’s agricultural and telecommunications sectors.” The waivers also allow for the exportation of services and funds to “preserve Syria’s cultural heritage sites.”

The move comes as President Obama is meeting with his national security advisers this week amid concerns that Assad is gaining ground. The administration is under growing pressure from Capitol Hill to arm the rebels or institute a no-fly zone, but no such decision has yet been announced.

“Obviously, the influx of Hezbollah and foreign fighters, the impact that's had on boosting the Assad regime, the overflow of this fight into other countries has refocused our efforts on what we can do on the ground,” State Department Jen Psaki said Wednesday. “There are a number of factors, international allies, the UN, everybody's making their different decisions, but obviously this is one of those tragedies that Secretary Kerry wakes up and thinks about every single day.”

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