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US introduces new sanctions on Syria

THE United States introduced a new raft of sanctions on Syria on Wednesday, the first since Joe Biden assumed the presidency in January, according to a statement from the Treasury Department.

The latest restrictions target eight individuals and 10 entities, all of two of which are associated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The sanctions included branches of the Syrian military intelligence and the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, the statement said, adding that the US government affirms “its commitment to supporting the Syrian people.”

Two leading figures from the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sharqiya militia have been sanctioned along with fundraiser and recruiter for the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadist organisation.

“Ahrar al-Sharqiya has committed numerous crimes against civilians, particularly Syrian Kurds, including unlawful killings, abductions, torture and seizures of private property,” the US Treasury said.

“The group has also incorporated former Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) members into its ranks. These horrific acts compound the suffering of a population that has repeatedly endured mass displacement.”

Despite the US claims to be fighting terrorist organisations in Syria, critics have suggested that the move was more of a PR exercise by Washington which seeks to overthrow the Syrian government.

The sanctions came just days after Russia’s special envoy to Syria Alexander Lavretiev urged the US to lift sanctions he said had been imposed on the Syrian people.

Speaking on Monday, he called for an immediate end to “the collective punishment imposed on the Syrian people for the sole reason that they support the legitimate government.”

Mr Assad was re-elected in June with nearly 95 per cent of the vote, however Western countries, including Britain, France and the US, have claimed the election was not free, fair or transparent.

The punitive Caesar Act was introduced by Mr Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in 2020. 

It targets all individuals and companies that provide financing or assistance to Syria, as well as a number of Syrian industries, including those related to infrastructure, military maintenance and energy production.

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