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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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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world

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China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Key findings of the report are below.

“Persuaded to return”

According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.

Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.

The Nine Forbidden Countries

China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.

Conclusion

According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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