Iraq News

US targets Syria oil, intelligence in new sanctions



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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