Trump announces new sanctions targeting Assad regime over human rights abuses

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The Trump administration on Wednesday announced over a dozen new sanctions on government and military officials and business leaders tied to Syrian President Bashar Assad, blacklisting human rights abusers for atrocities against civilians throughout the nine-year civil war in that country.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. campaign of sanctions against the Syrian government will not end until Assad implements a United Nations political resolution to the civil war.

“Thus far, Assad’s foreign enablers have only emboldened his regime’s cronies and deepened their involvement in the exploitative financial and military apparatus that underpins the regime’s survival,” Pompeo said in a statement. “There is a clear path forward.  The Syrian people have suffered enough.”

The sanctions, 17 in total, target the current head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, Husam Muhammad Louka, and Khodr Taher Bin Ali, a well-connected and close business associate of Assad and his wife Asma Asma al  Akhras.

The U.S. is also sanctioning the head of the Central Bank of Syria, Hazem Younes Kafroul, and parts of the Syrian military, including the 5th Corps of the Syrian Arab Army, and its commander Milad Jedid for obstructing a cease-fire in the country.

Also blacklisted are Nasreen and Rana Ibrahim, the adult sisters of Yasser Ibrahim, who is identified as a financier of Assad.

“The Ibrahim family, led by Yasser Ibrahim, acts as a front for Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma al  Akhras,” Pompeo said. “ While millions of Syrians face hunger, the Ibrahims are on a spending spree to expand Assad’s and Akhras’s personal stranglehold on the Syrian economy.”  

The secretary added that the sanctions do not target humanitarian assistance to affected civilians, including $720 million most recently announced on Sept. 24, part of over $12 billion provided by the U.S. to the Syrian people since 2011.

The administration’s sanctions are authorized under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, named for the pseudonym of the Syrian military photographer who defected from Assad’s army and smuggled out thousands of photos of evidence of crimes against humanity showing dead prisoners who were tortured, starved and burnt.

The sanctions also come on the third anniversary of the Armanaz massacre, a brutal attack by Syrian and Russian forces on civilians in the Syrian town, where successive airstrikes on the same town, in the same area, hit rescue workers helping civilians.

At least 34 people were killed, including eight women and seven children.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions target those that enable Assad and further his corruption and human rights abuses.

“As we mark three years since the regime’s slaughter of Syrian civilians in Armanaz, Syria, the United States will continue to employ all of its tools and authorities to target the finances of anyone who profits from or facilitates the Assad regime’s abuse of the Syrian people,” he said.

Tags Bashar Assad Mike Pompeo sanctions State Department Steven Mnuchin Syria Syrian civil war Treasury Department

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