Politics

US targets Syria oil, intelligence in new sanctions

By AFP

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Destroyed buildings in Douma are seen here on April 16th, 2018, during an organised media tour after the Syrian regime declared all anti-regime forces had left Eastern Ghouta, following a blistering two month offensive. The announcement came just hours after US-led strikes pounded Syrian regime targets in response to a suspected chemical attack on the enclave's main town of Douma. [Louai Beshara/AFP]

The US on Monday (November 9th) imposed new sanctions targeting Syria's oil sector, lawmakers and intelligence officers, vowing no let-up in pressure on President Bashar al-Assad despite his gains on the ground.

"The al-Assad regime has a choice: take irreversible steps toward a peaceful resolution of this nearly decade-long conflict or face further crippling sanctions," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The Treasury Department and State Department barred transactions with 19 individuals or entities and froze any US assets they might have -- its fifth round of sanctions since a tough new US law on Syria came into force.

Sanctioned entities include two partners of Syria's petroleum ministry -- Arfada Petroleum Private Joint Stock Co. and Sallizar Shipping, which are at work on an oil refinery in al-Raqa province and a terminal in the coastal city of Tartus.

The US also slapped sanctions on Gen. Ghassan Jaoudat Ismail, head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, and Brig. Gen. Nasr al-Ali, who heads the Political Security Directorate, a spy agency in charge of curbing dissent against al-Assad.

The Caesar Act, which took effect in June, restricts any US reconstruction assistance and keeps up pressure on al-Assad, demanding accountability, even though he has won back control of most of Syria during a deadly nine-year war.

The State Department said it was imposing the latest sanctions in memory of the more than 70 civilians killed in an October 2015 bombing of a marketplace in Douma, a city near Damascus then under opposition control.

Douma was hit three years later by a chemical attack, according to a UN probe.

Six days after US elections in which Democrat Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, Pompeo announced that the US point man on Syria, James Jeffrey, 74, would retire this month.

A former US ambassador to Baghdad and Ankara, the Turkish-speaking diplomat has been a key go-between with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Nathan Sales, the top State Department counter-terrorism official, will take over both as the US representative on Syria and envoy to the coalition to defeat the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Pompeo said.

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