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

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.

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“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.

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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.

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You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.