The United States imposed new sanctions on the Syrian oil sector, lawmakers and intelligence officials on Monday. They vowed not to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad despite his successes on the ground.
“The Assad regime has a choice: to take irreversible steps towards a peaceful solution to this almost ten-year conflict or to impose further crippling sanctions,” Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The Treasury and State Department banned transactions with 19 individuals or organizations and froze any U.S. assets – the fifth round of sanctions since tough new U.S. law on Syria came into force.
The sanctioned companies include two partners of the Syrian Ministry of Oil – Arfada Petroleum Private Joint Stock Co and Sallizar Shipping, which are working on an oil refinery in the war-torn Raqa province and a terminal in the coastal city of Tartus.
The United States also imposed sanctions on General Ghassan Jaoudat Ismail, head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Service, and Brigadier General Nasr Al-Ali, who heads the Political Security Directorate, an espionage agency responsible for containing dissent against Assad.
The Caesar Act, which went into effect in June, restricts any US reconstruction aid and maintains pressure on Assad, who demands accountability despite regaining control of most of Syria after more than nine years of bloodshed.
The State Department said it had imposed recent sanctions in memory of the more than 70 civilians who were killed in an October 2015 bombing of a market square in Douma, a city near Damascus that was destroyed by a chemical attack three years later was taken to a UN probe.
Six days after the US election in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump, Pompeo announced that US point man in Syria, James Jeffrey, 74, would retire this month.
The Turkish-speaking diplomat, a former US ambassador to Baghdad and Ankara, was a key mediator for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who attacked US-allied Syrian Kurds last year following a withdrawal ordered by Trump.
Nathan Sales, the top civil servant for the State Department for Counter-Terrorism, will serve as both the US representative for Syria and the coalition envoy to defeat the Islamic state group, Pompeo said.
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