US slaps new sanctions on Syria over crackdown

Syria's intelligence agency, two Assad relatives and Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard targeted for sanctions, accused of helping Syria's crackdown.

US President Barack Obama 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
US President Barack Obama 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration slapped sanctions on Syria Friday in response to its bloody crackdown on civilian protesters – its boldest action since anti-regime demonstrations erupted weeks ago.
The measures target Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother and cousin, who head security services involved in the attacks on protesters – as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the US accuses of helping suppress the protests.

Syria PM: Gov't to propose political, economic reforms
In a letter to Congress explaining the new sanctions, US President Barack Obama referred to the “repression of the Syrian people,” and highlighted the use of torture and arbitrary arrest of protesters.
“We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement released after the sanctions were imposed.
“We have all grown increasingly alarmed by the violence unleashed against the Syrian people,” said John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in welcoming the decision. “We need to increase the political and economic pressure so President Assad understands that he must end the violence and embrace reforms.”
He continued, “The administration’s imposition of tough economic sanctions against the perpetrators of these grave human-rights abuses is appropriate.
It puts Syria’s leaders on notice that decisions to kill unarmed civilians have consequences.”
Though the US already has sanctions against Syria, the administration hopes other countries will follow its lead to give the move more power.
Despite the limits of US financial leverage on Damascus, administration critics have charged that the White House has done too little to support the Syrian protesters – particularly given the clear American calls for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to go, the latter of which was followed up by force.
Senior State Department official Jacob Sullivan, however, ruled out military action by the US against Syria at this point, in a press briefing.
The decision to ramp up sanctions was embraced Friday by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which issued a statement praising the administration for “bringing international attention to the brutal actions perpetrated by the Syrian regime against its own people.”