The United States has announced new sanctions targeting the Assad regime for human rights violations, Biden administration officials announced Wednesday.
Wednesday’s move comes after several regional and international capitals appeared to be inching towards normalizing ties with the Syrian president and his government.
“Today the Treasury Department is taking action against the Assad regime and its human rights abuses, including torture in Syrian military prisons,” Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Andrea Gacki said.
Gacki told reporters that five senior prison officials within the Syrian intelligence apparatus were being sanctioned.
“Bashar al-Assad and his brutal regime continue to extend the conflict in Syria, and their brutal treatment to oppose the policies and murderous activities, such actions cannot continue,” she said.
The Treasury Department also said it would sanction two Syrian “armed” groups. One of the groups, Ahrar al-Sharqiya, is widely seen as an offshoot of ISIS.
“Ahrar al-Sharqiya has committed numerous crimes against civilians, particularly Syrian Kurds, including unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and seizures of private property,” Gacki said.
Saraya al-Areen, a militia affiliated with the Syrian Arab Army, was sanctioned by the State Department.
A Turkey-based al-Qaeda financial facilitator and Syria-based terrorist fundraiser and recruiter were also sanctioned.
“These designations expose the continued efforts by al-Qaeda and Hay’et Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) to use the global formal financial system and highlight the need for continued vigilance against terrorist fundraising and recruitment on the internet,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Eight individuals and 10 entities were sanctioned in total.
Zehra Bell, the director for Iraq and Syria at the National Security Council, told reporters that the sanctions were part of a “broader US strategy for Syria.”
“Today’s action is not a random event, but rather part of a carefully considered approach by this administration over the last several months to identify key priorities in Syria … and to make clear that the US values on human rights in Syria are extremely important,” Bell said.