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U.S. slaps new sanctions on Syria, hoping for end to bloody civil war



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The United States on Tuesday levied a fresh round of sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, hoping the increased financial strain will bring a swifter end to the bloody civil war that has engulfed the nation since 2011. These latest sanctions target its central bank and blacklist several individuals and entities with ties to Assad’s dictatorial regime.

These new sanctions follow in the footsteps of sanctions imposed earlier this year on the regime.

RELATED: Trump to sanction Syria’s dictator for human rights abuses

“The United States will continue to seek accountability for those prolonging this conflict,” a Tuesday statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reads.

The civil war, which started from a violent crackdown on Arab Spring protests in 2011 and has subsequently brought in multiple foreign nations, has resulted in millions fleeing the war-torn country and millions displaced internally. On top of that, it is estimated that the conflict has taken the lives of 593,000 people, according to a report earlier this month from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The Assad regime, supported by its enablers and allies,” says the statement, “refuses to end its needless, brutal war against the Syrian people, stalling efforts to reach a political resolution.”

In accordance with Executive Order 13894, the State Department said it is levying sanctions on Asma al-Assad, the wife of President Assad, “for impeding efforts to promote a political resolution of the Syrian conflict”; as well as on members of her immediate family, which include Fawaz Akhras, Sahar Otri Akhras, Firas al Akhras, and Eyad Akhras.

“Asma al-Assad has spearheaded efforts on behalf of the regime to consolidate economic and political power, including by using her so-called charities and civil society organizations,” Pompeo’s statement says.

“The Assad and Akhras families have accumulated their ill-gotten riches at the expense of the Syrian people through their control over an extensive, illicit network with links in Europe, the Gulf, and elsewhere,” Pompeo continues. “Meanwhile, the Syrian people continue to wait in long lines for bread, fuel, and medicine as the Assad regime chooses to cut subsidies for these basic essentials that Syrians need.”

Furthermore, the Department of the Treasury is also imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Syria. Additional sanctions from the Treasury Department include those on Lina al-Kinayeh, one of Assad’s key advisers; her husband, Syrian parliamentarian Mohammed Masouti; and numerous businesses affiliated with the regime.

RELATED: Pompeo, Mnuchin say no clash exists between them over China-related E.O., after WSJ report

Moreover, the outgoing U.S. Secretary of State marked the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump signing the bipartisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 into effect, saying that “the United States will also continue to pressure the Assad regime and its enablers to prevent them from amassing the resources to perpetuate their atrocities.”

“As part of that effort,” Pompeo continues, the State Department additionally designated a Syria’s Military Intelligence (SMI) commander, General Kifah Moulhem, for “his role as one of the architects of the Syrian people’s suffering.” Thus, “for his actions in preventing a ceasefire in Syria,” sanctions have been imposed upon him.

Over the past few months, the Trump administration has made some significant headway in the foreign policy arena, hoping to ensure Trump is remembered for massive foreign policy achievements as president. This has primarily been the United States successfully brokering a series of historic peace deals between Israel and a number of Arab nations.

RELATED: ‘The dawn of a new Middle East’: UAE, Bahrain, Israel Sign Historic Peace Accords

RELATED: Morocco, Israel agree to normalize relations

RELATED: White House: Sudan and Israel to normalize relations

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims



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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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