US sanctions senior Syrian officials ahead of chemical attack anniversary

The State Department announced Thursday that it is slapping new sanctions on senior Syrian officials ahead of the seventh anniversary of a brutal chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 Syrians.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump announces ‘snapback’ of sanctions on Iran | Uniformed personnel at Dem convention under investigation | Netanyahu calls reported F-35 deal ‘fake news’ Trump announces ‘snapback’ of sanctions on Iran Great power competition and global supply chains MORE said the government is placing sanctions on Yasser Ibrahim, a top deputy for dictator Bashar al-Assad; Luna Al Shibl, Assad’s presidential media advisor; and Mohamad Amar Saati, a senior Ba’ath party official. It is also slapping penalties on leadership of a number of Syrian military units “for their efforts to prevent a ceasefire in Syria.” 

Pompeo said in a statement that the new sanctions, announced a day before the anniversary of the attack in Ghouta, are meant to “reaffirm our commitment to not stand by idly while Assad prolongs this conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people.”

The officials and military units have “shattered the social contract between citizens and the military sworn to protect them,” he said. “Today’s sanctions reinforce our commitment to hold Assad’s generals and militia commanders accountable for their violations and abuses.”

The U.S. already has sanctions on at least eight other Syrian officials and said it will support sanctions levied by European allies against five others.

Pompeo did not speak to the details of the sanctions, but sanctioned individuals are generally blacklisted from doing business with U.S. citizens or utilizing American institutions. 

Thursday’s announcement is part of what the White House has said is a sustained campaign to apply economic and political pressure to prevent the Assad regime from garnering the resources to wage war against the Syrian people.

“The United States and its allies are united in continuing to apply pressure on Assad and his enablers until there is peaceful, political solution to the conflict. Assad and his foreign patrons know the clock is ticking for action. In the meantime, the United States will continue to impose costs on anyone, anywhere who obstructs a peaceful political solution to the Syrian conflict,” said Pompeo.

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