Most Punishing US Sanctions on Syria Since Start of Civil War Take Effect

Washington is increasing pressure on Damascus and its backers in an effort to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict

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Sweeping US sanctions on Syria came into force on June 17, punishing any individuals, institutions, or companies engaging in business with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The sanctions are being imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which targets “bad actors who continue to aid and finance the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people while simply enriching themselves.” The act was signed into law in December by President Donald Trump.

The act was named after a Syrian defector, known only by his code name "Caesar", who smuggled more than 50,000 photos of human rights abuses out of the country to bring attention to the war crimes.      

During a meeting of the Security Council on June 16, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said “Our aim is to deprive the Assad regime of the revenue and the support it has used to commit the large-scale atrocities and human rights violations that prevent a political resolution and severely diminish the prospects for peace.”

Last week, the top Democrats and Republicans from the US congressional foreign affairs committees issued a statement in which they called on the Trump administration to strongly enforce the new sanctions. 

“The Syrian people have suffered too much and for too long under Assad and his backers. The Administration must engage in vigorous, sustained enforcement of the Caesar Act in order to send a message to the regime and its enablers that Assad remains a pariah. He will never regain standing as a legitimate leader. The regime and its sponsors must stop the slaughter of innocent people and provide the Syrian people a path toward reconciliation, stability and freedom."

“We strongly urge all members of the international community against commercial or diplomatic engagement with the murderous Assad regime or engaging in sanctionable behavior,” they said. 

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