U.S. imposes tough sanctions against Syrian president, other officials
The U.S. imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad and six other senior Syrian officials.
May 18th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

U.S. imposes tough sanctions against Syrian president, other officials

President Barack Obama Wednesday imposed tough sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and six other senior Syrian officials in an effort to stop the regime's fierce crackdown on protests, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The sanctions also target two top Iranian officials whose unit was a "conduit for Iranian material support" to Syrian intelligence, according to a copy of the executive order issued by the White House.

Obama signed the order Wednesday, a move a senior administration official described as a "decisive step to increase pressure" on the Syrian government to end violence, intimidation and pressure "and begin transitioning to a democratic" process.

Condemning Syria's use of violence and intimidation against its people, the official said al-Assad "must put an end to the attacks on protesters, mass arrests and harassment" of citizens expressing rights and "must begin to introduce change."

The Syrian government has launched a clampdown on peaceful demonstrators since mid-March. The United Nations last week said as many as 850 people have died in the protests, and there have been thousands of arrests.

Along with al-Assad, the other senior Syrian officials are Farouk al-Shara, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister General Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud, the head of Syrian military Abdul Fatah Qudsiya and Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, head of Syrian military intelligence.

"As a result of this action, any property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the individuals listed in the Annex have an interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them," the Treasury Department said in a statement detailing the steps.

The senior administration official said it's too early to estimate how much will be frozen.

"As I am sure you know, when we take actions obligatory for institutions to freeze, many institutions around the world might" do the same thing, the official said. "Amplifications around that may be significant."

Treasury also announced the designation of 10 individuals and entities under an executive order signed by Obama on April 29.

It targets Syrian officials and others "responsible for human rights abuses, including repression against the Syrian people, as well as a set of companies tied to Syrian corruption."

One is Hafiz Makhluf, a cousin of al-Assad and a senior official in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, the overarching civilian intelligence service in Syria.

"Makhluf was given a leading role in responding to protests in Syria, and was heavily involved in the Syrian regime's actions" in the city of Daraa, the official said, where many protesters have been killed.

Also designated were two Iranians: Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, which is called "the conduit for Iranian material support" to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, and the other is Mohsen Chizari, a senior IRGC-QF officer who serves as its commander of operations and training.

"It is a completely hypocritical act" of the Iranian government and the Quds force to "lend assistance in oppression" against those expressing human rights, the senior official said. "It is something we are concerned about," the official added.

Other agencies designated are the Syrian Military Intelligence, the Syrian National Security Bureau, which is an element of the ruling Baath party; and Syrian Air Force Intelligence.

All are said to be involved in the actions against demonstrators.

Air Force Intelligence personnel allegedly "fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds of demonstrators" in late April after noon prayers, the Treasury Department said. At least 43 people were killed.

- CNN's Elise Labott and Adam Levine contributed to this report

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Filed under: Syria • U.S.
soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. GodisDead

    I start a new job on Friday 8pm-Sat 8am after having to work my last day at my current job 6am-230pm fri....So I really wouldnt mind if the world ends, Im going to be dog tired already Ill sleep through it.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    Good point.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormerF

      Where is the story of Harry Reid getting Neveda an exemption from Obama-care?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ahmad

    I don't believe this double-standards policies and hypocrisy, we are the sanctions on Bahrain officials ? The Saudi and UAE army units are in another country, how would the president reacts if there is an Iranian army in Syria?. This is outrageous and the Syrians (the vast majority who do support the president) will prove again the US policies in the Middle East are wrong. By the way, I would like to see facts that support these sanctions, these sanctions will only rally more people around Assad, and a last word: who will suffer economically is the syrian people, only the people.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ali

      "human rights" is instrumental in US policy; just one more way to pressure US enemies.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Geneo

    I thought he was all buddy buddy with these guys.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Syrian

    yes, it is about time. president obama say something about this brutal regiem. finally some heat on this war criminal.... I wish it was earlier but late better than never...

    May 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulMo

      @Syrian – And I'm quoting you...."yes, it is about time. president obama say something about this brutal regiem." While I can't say much for your grammar or spelling, I can speak to your lack of knowledge on the subject. On April 9th, 2011, Obama stated the following "I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government today and over the past few weeks. I also condemn any use of violence by protesters." Where were you on Friday April 9th? Obviously not paying attention as was the case when writing your post. Perhaps since then the Obama administration has been working behind the scenes, monitoring the situation and ensuring they come up with a proper response, as compared to not thinking first like the previous President and in-turn doing something rash. Remember "Mission Accomplished"? Probably not. Short term memories tend to be the norm when it comes to bashing the current President instead of taking the time to research, measure twice, cut once, and provide a more thoughtful and accurate comment that runs more parallel with reality.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MattB


    May 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. andy b

    how about sanctions against France for the IMF Old Dog Rapist!!

    May 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SeunB

    Like a sanction or sanctions will make any difference. Sanctions are like saying "hey... we all are upset with you" no serious actions, just talk. Doesnt change the mind of a leader sworn to die on the throne. The US is far stretched in its capacity to intervene in foreign affairs of this sort. Why can't the so-called "world leading" countries step into this situation if they are so conscientous? The United States of America always have to be the one sticking their neck in... and the moment that happens, the critics come to play.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TwM

    First Libya Now Syria This President is the third coming of George Bush. We have to Hope that America has smartened up and that We will change the Presidentcy.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ROFLOL

      Change it to what – a Monarchy (or a Monartchy)?
      Obama is the most balanced President we have had for a long time. He actually thinks before he speaks. That is a long way from where we were 8 years ago.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jon

    Can we leave Israel out of this, please? That's a much more complicated situation. And I think it's clear at this point that Assad – going by reports in Al Jazeera – more than deserves it at this point.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Syrian Wife

      OHHHH yeah.... like that's a trust worthy news source!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Uh oh...

    So how long before the Republicans come out as being against sanctions? Rush...?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Greg


    May 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Syrian from Damascus

    Reform is going to take time and Washington should give Assad sometime to start a new political and economical reform process, these sanctions won't work, they never did. Assad is an elected president, and I did vote for him. We do still support our president. Yes mistakes have been made, but Syrians don’t see any sanctions on the king of Bahrain yet???

    May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Daveusa99

    Great, now Comrade Obama can start another war (with this nobel peace prize) without telling Congress and steal any oil from Syria. Why doesn't the US just stay out of all this including Libya and let them kill one another? Where is Michael Moore and the liberals crying that this is all about oil?

    May 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • MattB

      your and idot.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Askhow

      Sorry but Syria has no oil. You'll have to think of something else, How 'bout we're trying to steal their Hummus or Baklava?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Heavyarms

    What are "sanctions"?... Is it a new type of weaponry??

    May 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
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