In the wake of the violent crackdown by the government of Syria against demonstrators in its streets and one day before he delivers what the White House is billing as a major address about the Middle East, President Obama today signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and six other senior officials of the government of Syria. The sanctions include a freeze of their U.S. assets and a ban on any individual or company in the U.S. doing business with them.
The Obama administration had previously imposed sanctions against other Syrian leaders, but not President Assad himself.
The six other individuals are all high-level officials in the Syrian government: Vice President Farouk al-Shara; Prime Minister Adel Safa; Minister of the Interior Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar;
Minister of Defense Ali Habib Mahmoud; head of Syrian Military Intelligence Abdul Fatah Qudsiya; and director of Political Security Directorate Mohammed Dib Zaitoun.
The president has been accused of not doing enough to stop the violence in Syria, with one writer opining a few days ago in Foreign Policy, “the administration's fecklessness on Syria is rapidly turning into a national disgrace. It represents a moral and strategic failing of major proportions. If sustained, it threatens to rival the president's tragic decision in 2009 to stand by mutely as millions of Iranians rallied to drive a stake through the heart of a regime whose quest for nuclear weapons poses perhaps the greatest current danger to vital U.S. interests.”
In addition the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of 10 individuals and entities to be sanctioned under a previous executive order focused on human rights abuses:
• Hafiz Makhluf: a cousin of President al-Assad and senior official of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, whom the US government says played a leading role in responding to protests in Syria including those in Dar'a where Syrian security forces killed protestors;
• Qasem Soleimani: commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, the conduit for Iranian material support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate;
• Mohsen Chizari: A senior officer of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force who serves as the Commander of Operations and Training;
• Syrian Military Intelligence, one of the four major branches of Syria's security forces, which the US government says used force against and arrested demonstrators;
• Syrian National Security Bureau, part of the Syrian Ba'ath Party, which the US government says directed Syrian security forces to use extreme force against demonstrators;
• Syrian Air Force Intelligence, personnel from which fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds of demonstrators, killing at least 43 people;
• Rami Makhlouf, a powerful Syrian businessman and regime insider, and the following entities he owns or controls: Bena Properties, Al Mashreq Investment Fund, Cham Holding and its Chairman Nabil Rafik al Kuzbari.
– Jake Tapper