U.S. Trea­sury levies sanc­tions against Syria over at­tack

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY S.A. MILLER

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Mon­day slapped new fi­nan­cial sanc­tions on Syria for the sus­pected deadly sarin gas at­tack on civil­ians ear­lier this month, tar­get­ing 271 peo­ple linked to the chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram of the regime of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

The sanc­tions, be­lieved to be among the largest ever by the U.S. govern­ment, are the lat­est ag­gres­sive ac­tion by Pres­i­dent Trump to pun­ish the As­sad regime for al­leged use of chem­i­cal weapons — which would be a war crime. The at­tack killed at least 90 peo­ple, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, in a rebel-held area of the coun­try.

“We will not tol­er­ate the use of chem­i­cal weapons by any ac­tor and we in­tend to hold the As­sad regime ac­count­able for its un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior,” Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said when an­nounc­ing the sanc­tions at the White House.

The sanc­tions freeze fi­nan­cial as­sets, prop­erty and in­ter­est in prop­erty held by em­ploy­ees of Syria’s Sci­en­tific Stud­ies and Re­search Cen­ter, which the U.S. says partly en­ables the use of chem­i­cal weapons. The sanc­tions also block U.S. com­pa­nies from do­ing busi­ness with them. Mr. Mnuchin said it sent “a strong mes­sage with this ac­tion — that we will not tol­er­ate the use of chem­i­cal weapons by any ac­tor.”

Af­ter the April 4 gas at­tack, Mr. Trump launched a U.S. mis­sile strike against a Syr­ian govern­ment air base iden­ti­fied as the source of the at­tack.

The air­field was hit with 59 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles and was viewed by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a tar­geted, de­ci­sive ac­tion by Mr. Trump, although his ad­min­is­tra­tion is still for­mu­lat­ing a larger policy for Syria, the coun­try’s seven-year civil war and the on­go­ing fight against Is­lamic State and other ji­hadist groups hold­ing ter­ri­tory in the coun­try.

Mr. As­sad has de­nied us­ing chem­i­cal weapon. His de­nials have been sec­onded by Russia, the chief spon­sor of the regime. Russia was not tar­geted by the sanc­tions.

How­ever, Mr. Mnuchin said the im­pact of the sanc­tions would be felt be­yond Syria’s bor­ders and would af­fect its al­lies. He de­clined to say whether ad­di­tional mea­sures against Russia were un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

“We don’t com­ment on the specifics of sanc­tions that we are go­ing to do in the fu­ture,” he said.

Russia re­cently ve­toed a U.N. res­o­lu­tion that would have con­demned the use of chem­i­cal weapons in Syria and in­stead called for an in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the at­tack. China ab­stained for the first time, a move the White House billed a win for their ef­forts to iso­late Russia.

“On Syria, the Coun­cil failed again this month to re­spond to Syria’s use of chem­i­cal weapons,” Mr. Trump said at a White House meet­ing of U.N. am­bas­sadors from coun­tries on the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. “... I was very dis­ap­pointed by that.”

House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Royce said added sanc­tions on Syria were over­due af­ter years of in­ac­tion un­der Pres­i­dent Obama.

“For years now, I’ve been call­ing for sanc­tions to deny As­sad the re­sources he needs to slaugh­ter in­no­cent men, women and chil­dren,” said the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can. “These strong and swift ac­tions will make a real dif­fer­ence. And they rep­re­sent an­other stark de­par­ture from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dither­ing on Syria, which only wors­ened the blood­shed and cre­ated a vac­uum for ISIS.”

“I ap­plaud the ad­min­is­tra­tion for tak­ing these im­por­tant steps, and will con­tinue to work to ad­vance bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion that will give the White House ad­di­tional lever­age to hold As­sad — as well as his Rus­sian and Ira­nian back­ers — ac­count­able,” said Mr. Royce.

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