US slaps new sanctions on 17 Syrian targets including Tourism Ministry

Among the senior figures sanctioned on Wednesday are the current head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate Husam Muhammad Louka

Michael Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, pauses during a joint news conference with Luigi di Maio, Italy's foreign minister, following their bilateral meeting in Rome, Italy, on Wednesday, Sept. 30. 2020. Pompeo urged the Vatican to ramp up its opposition to governments abusing religious freedom, as he sought allies for the administration’s push against China. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg
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The US expanded its Caesar Act sanctions designating 17 new Syrian individuals and entities on Wednesday that include the Ministry of Tourism, the governor of the Central Bank and the directorate of general intelligence.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo linked the new measures to the third anniversary of the Armanaz massacre in the conflict.

“Three years ago yesterday, on September 29, 2017, Assad regime forces, backed by Russia, killed at least 34 Syrians in the town of Armanaz,” he said.

“Today, the United States is announcing 17 Syria sanctions designations as part of the Administration’s continuing campaign to achieve the goals of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 and hold Assad and his enablers accountable for their crimes, including the killings at Armanaz and in countless other Syrian communities,” he said.

The Caesar Act passed Congress unanimously and has targeted 75 individuals and entities in or associated with the Syrian regime since its passing.

Among the senior figures sanctioned on Wednesday are the current head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate Husam Muhammad Louka, the Governor of the Central Bank of Syria, Hazem Younes Karfoul and businessman Khodr Taher Bin Ali. Mr Ali serves  “as a prominent local intermediary and contractor for the designated Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army,” the Treasury said.

The State Department issued three designations, most notable those targeting the commander of the fifth Corps of the Syrian Arab Army commander Milad Jedid. Mr Jedid and the fifth corps are believed to be tightly linked to pro-Iranian militias in Syria fighting alongside the Assad regime.

The sanctions also targeted two women associated with regime financing, according to the US government -Nasreen and Rana Ibrahim, the adult sisters of Assad financier Yasser Ibrahim.

“The Ibrahim family, led by Yasser Ibrahim, acts as a front for Bashar Al Assad and his wife Asma Al Akhras,” Mr Pompeo said. Both Mr Assad and his wife have been sanctioned.

The US has ramped up sanctions against Assad in the last six months and is using the Caesar Act to prevent the regime from rehabilitating itself politically and economically. The US is also urging governments and businesses in the Middle East to take note of such actions. A US official told The National that actors in violation of the Caesar Act outside Syria will be held accountable.