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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US Sanctions Senior Syrian Officials on Eve of Anniversary of Ghouta Gas Attack

By VOA News August 20, 2020

The United States has sanctioned six government, financial and military supporters of the Assad regime, including two senior government officials, the U.S. State and Treasury departments announced. The measures enacted Tuesday include sanctions on Syria's presidential media adviser Luna Al Shibl and senior Ba'ath party official Mohamad Amar Saati.

The news comes a day before the seventh anniversary of the Syrian government's sarin gas attack on civilians in Ghouta, a suburb of the capital Damascus. The U.S. estimated that at least 1,400 people, including over 400 children, were killed in the Aug. 21, 2013 surface-to-surface rocket attack.

"These new sanctions memorialize the victims of Assad's chemical weapons attack on Ghouta seven years ago," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter. "We will not stop pressing for accountability and a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict."

Al Shibl is a former Al Jazeera anchorwoman who returned to Syria at the beginning of the country's civil war and quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior government official.

"She has been instrumental in developing Assad's false narrative that he maintains control of the country and that the Syrian people flourish under his leadership," said the Treasury in a press release. "Despite countless Syrian civilians living under desperate siege in Syria's decade-long war, Al Shibl orchestrated photo ops for Assad among cheering Syrians."

Saati, the Ba'ath party official and Al Shibl's husband, is credited with establishing the Ba'ath Brigades, a volunteer militia that recruited students and fought under the Syrian military before the group's dissolution in September 2018.

"These Syrian government officials actively contribute to the oppression of the Assad regime," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in the release. "The United States will continue to impose costs on those facilitating the Assad regime's ongoing war against its own people."

The State Department identified the other individuals sanctioned as Syrian National Defense Force commander Fadi Saqr, Brigadier General Ghaith Dalah, who commands the 42nd Brigade of the 4th Division, and Tiger Force Haider Regiment commander Samer Ismail.

"These senior officials lead the same Syrian military that has killed children with barrel bombs and used chemicals [sic] weapons against communities like Ghouta," said the department's statement, attributed to Pompeo. "They have shattered the social contract between citizens and the military sworn to protect them."

Yasser Ibrahim, whom the State Department called "Assad's henchman," also was named in the sanctions. The department accused Ibrahim of using his networks to make deals that benefit Assad rather than the Syrian populace.

The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million Syrians have fled the country or become internally displaced since the conflict began in 2011.

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