International

U.S. imposes sanctions on Syrian President relatives, intelligence agency

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed an executive order imposing sanctions on two relatives of his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad and the Arab state’s intelligence service, with the White House asking the embattled leader to heed to the calls of his people.

The action came in response to the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in Syria. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the clash between the Syrian government and demonstrators in recent weeks with more than 50 reportedly dying yesterday.

“We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement after Mr. Obama signed the order imposing sanctions against three Syrian officials, including Assad’s relatives, and other Syrian and Iranian government entities responsible for human rights abuses.

The officials are Mahir al-Asad -- brother of Syrian President and brigade commander in the Army’s 4th Armored Division -- who played a leading role in the regime’s actions in Dar’a where protesters have been killed by the security forces; Atif Najib -- cousin of the Syrian President Bashar al-Asad -- who was the head of the Political Security Directorate (PSD) for Dar’a Province during March 2011, when protesters were killed there by Syrian security forces; and Ali Mamluk, director of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID).

Obama also slapped sanctions on the GID -- the overarching civilian intelligence service in Syria. The agency represses internal dissent and monitors individual citizens and is said to be involved in the regime’s actions in Dar’a.

“This Order provides the United States with new tools to target individuals and entities determined to have engaged in human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repression; to be a senior official of an entity whose property is blocked pursuant to the Order; to have provided material support to, or to be owned or controlled by, persons blocked under the Order,” the White House said.

Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security also revoked certain licenses for export and re-export to Syria of items relating to VIP aircraft used to transport senior officials of the Syrian government.

“Due to the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Syria, export and re-export of these items is deemed contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States,” the department said.

The move impacts four relevant licenses for exports and re-exports of parts to these planes, which are small civilian aircraft used by Syrian leaders.

These sanctions are in addition to those the United States maintains pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and other orders, as a part of the national emergency with respect to Syria.

“Today, the President continued that national emergency declaration for another year. Further, based on the current repression in Syria and charges of human rights abuses, the Commerce Department has also revoked certain commercial export licenses relating to VIP aircraft used to transport senior officials of the Syrian government,” Press Secretary Carney said.

Welcoming the sanctions, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said indiscriminate killing in Syria and the use of tanks in population centres are unacceptable.

“Democratic aspirations are universal, but every country is unique and every situation in the Middle East is different.

The status quo in Syria is unacceptable. What is clear is that we need to increase the political and economic pressure so President Assad understands that he must end the violence and embrace reforms.”

In addition to these actions, the U.S. believes Syria’s deplorable actions toward its people warrant a strong international response.

“We welcome the decision today by the UN Human Rights Council to condemn the Government of Syria for its violent crackdown against peaceful demonstrators,” he said. UNHRC has passed a resolution to send a mission to Syria to probe into human rights violations there.

“We strongly support the resolution passed today in Geneva, including the mandate for an urgent mission by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law, with the goal of ensuring full accountability for the perpetrators of the violence” Carney said.

The Syrian people’s call for freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the ability to freely choose their leaders must be heard, the White House stated.

Condemning, the brutal crackdown in Syria, the White House said: “The United States strongly condemns the Syrian government’s continued use of violence and intimidation against the Syrian people.

“We call upon the Syrian regime and its supporters to refrain from further acts of violence and other human rights abuses against Syrian citizens seeking to express their political aspirations.”

At State Department briefing, Jake Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning, said the resolution of UN Human Rights Council on Syria sends a clear message on behalf of a broad cross-section of the international community that these attacks against civilians perpetrated by the Syrian government are “unacceptable“.

“Then, there is the dimension of targeted sanctions, which are meant to show the direct personal costs on individuals who are personally associated with and responsible for the violence that’s been perpetrated against civilians in Syria.

“And then beyond that, we have an ongoing consultation with other members of the international community about how, collectively, we can work to sharpen the choice for this Syrian regime and show them that continued violence against their people is not the answer,” Sullivan said.

At the moment, the US is in a position to work with other countries to build the kind of international consensus around condemnation, and beyond that to be able to determine what steps the international community can take this regard.

“And that’s a process that is underway as we speak, and we’re assessing what opportunities are not only available but are going to be most effective in helping to stop the violence,” he added.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 6:59:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/U.S.-imposes-sanctions-on-Syrian-President-relatives-intelligence-agency/article14906657.ece

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