US hits top Syrian ministers with sanctions


With President Bashar al-Assad’s regime reeling from a bomb attack that killed three top commanders, the United States turned the screw government further Wednesday with sanctions against dozens of ministers. The Treasury Department announced measures against 29 members of the regime, including the ministers of finance, economy, justice and information, as well as the governor of the central bank. Senior Treasury Department official David Cohen described the move as part of an “unwavering commitment” to press Assad’s regime to “end the carnage and relinquish power.” While the US had already frozen the assets of around 100 members of the regime and barred US firms from doing business with them, the move represents a significant ramping up of the pressure on the regime’s inner circle.
To date those not directly involved in the violence had largely been spared sanctions, in the hope of isolating Assad through defections or even an internal revolt. Among the other ministers included in Wednesday’s actions were those responsible for agriculture, housing, health, education, environment, culture and oil. Many of the ministers were appointed on June 23 when Assad announced a new cabinet in the wake of controversial parliamentary elections that were boycotted by the opposition. Five companies were also hit with sanctions linked to Syria’s weapons proliferation.