In response to the chemical weapons attack April 4th that killed approximately 100 civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, has announced sanctions against 271 employees of the Syrian government agency responsible for developing such weapons and the means to deliver them.
The 271 designated individuals from Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center have expertise in chemistry or have worked in support of the Center’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012. As a result of their designation, any assets these people hold in the United States are frozen, and U.S. persons and businesses are generally prohibited from conducting business with them.
The U.S. move comes just weeks after the regime of Bashar al-Assad dropped chemical weapons from the sky on Khan Sheikhoun, resulting in an agonizing death for the villagers below, and it follows the United States’ targeted military response two days later of launching 59 missiles onto the airfield from which Assad’s chemical weapons attack originated.
At a press briefing at the White House, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the action against the staff of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center is one of the largest ever executed by OFAC:
In a single action, we are more than doubling the number of individuals and entities sanctioned since the start of the Syrian conflict pursuant to Syria-related executive orders. The sweeping sanctions are intended to hold the Assad regime and those who support it directly or indirectly accountable for their blatant violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118.”
The United States is “sending a strong message…that we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor, and we intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “The Treasury Department, together with the Department of State and our international partners, will continue to relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of any individuals involved with Syria’s production and use of chemical weapons.”