The US has sanctioned 14 Syrian officials and entities linked to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad under the recently implemented Caesar Act, announced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.
The new designations by the State Department include President Bashar al-Assad’s 18-year-old son, Hafez, and his relative Zuhair Tawfiq al-Assad, who leads the Syrian army’s First Division. The US Treasury also added to its sanctions list Syrian businessman Wassim Anwar al-Qattan and nine business entities linked to al-Qattan and the regime.
The designations are the latest round of sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act that came into effect in June, which aims to cut off revenue and support for the Assad regime.
“The Assad regime’s military has become a symbol of brutality, repression, and corruption. They have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, detained and tortured peaceful protesters, and destroyed schools, hospitals, and markets without regard to human life,” said Pompeo in a Department of State release.
“It is time for Assad's needless, brutal war to end. This, above all, is what our sanctions campaign is meant to bring about,” he added.
US Treasury sanctions businessman Wassim Anwar al-Qattan
Ten of the 14 new sanctions are being applied by the US Treasury, centering on the activities of businessman Wassim Anwar al-Qattan.
Al-Qattan is a Syrian businessman who has several contracts to develop government-owned shopping malls and hotel properties in Damascus. He reportedly has close links with senior regime figures and has been awarded most of the recent real estate projects outside of Marota City in Damascus, according to the US Treasury.
On top of various hotels, al-Qattan’s company acquired the rights to develop the government-owned Yalbagha Complex into a tourist commercial complex in Damascus.
“While corrupt businessmen with ties to Assad invest in luxury real estate made possible by forced displacement of innocent civilians, they also worsen the oppression of the Syrian people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“The United States remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, while the Assad regime seeks to profit from their suffering,” he added.
Hama and Maarat al-Numan sanctions
Pompeo announced that the latest tranche of sanctions would be named after Hama and Maarat al-Numan, the locations of atrocities the Assad regime is accused of committing.
“These names are meant to memorialize the victims of two of the Assad regime's most notorious atrocities, both of which occurred in this week in 2011 and 2019,” said Pompeo.
The city of Hama, where Bashar’s father killed thousands during the Hama Massacre of 1982, was the site of some of the largest peaceful protests against the Syrian regime that broke out in 2011.
President al-Assad ordered his forces to attack the city in July 2011, in a siege that killed at least 200 civilians.
After eight years of war, the town of Maarat al-Numan was bombed by Syrian regime forces. The bombs hit a busy marketplace, killing 42 Syrian civilians.
“There must be accountability and justice for the victims of Hama, Maarat al-Numan, and of the Assad regime’s other war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Pompeo in the statement.
“The Assad regime and those who support it have a simple choice: take irreversible steps toward a lasting political solution to end the Syrian conflict as called for by UNSCR 2254 or face new tranches of crippling sanctions,” he concluded.