Dozens of men, women, and children were stabbed or shot dead at point blank range by regime thugs known as the Shabiha in the Syrian village of Houla on May 25th. Hundreds more Syrian civilians were wounded in a vicious assault that involved a regime artillery and tank barrage on a residential neighborhood. Iran’s Quds Force has shamefully bragged about its support of the Asad regime, during its brutal crackdown.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the massacre of civilians in Houla. “Those who perpetrated this atrocity,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a written statement, “must be identified and held to account. And the United States will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on [President Bashar] Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end.”
In response to the Houla massacre the United States expelled the U.S. Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour. Australia, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Portugal, Panama, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Japan, took similar action. The Gulf Cooperation Council countries had previously expelled ambassadors from their respective countries.
In an effort to put pressure on the Assad regime to step down, the United States, the European Union and others have imposed sanctions. Most recently, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Syria International Islamic Bank, or SIIB, for acting on behalf of the Commercial Bank of Syria and providing service to the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, both of which are subject to U.S. and international sanctions. SIIB has acted as a front for the Commercial Bank of Syria allowing it to circumvent sanctions against it by the United States, the European Union, and the Arab League.
This action, said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, “will add to the economic pressure on the Assad regime by closing off a key evasion route. The Treasury Department, working with others around the world who share our goal of ending the brutal repression of the Syrian people, will continue to close off the Assad regime’s access to the international financial system.“
The United States stands in solidarity with the Syrian people and the peaceful marchers in cities across Syria who have taken to the streets to denounce the brutal Assad regime.