The United States formally “blacklisted” eighteen Syrian officials that have been tied to the use of chemical weapons on Thursday, as well as five governmental organizations. These first sanctions against the Syrian government for the use of weapons of mass destruction came as a result of an international investigation that found the Syrian government had used chlorine gas in attacks against their own civilians.
According to the National Institute of Health, chlorine gas can cause mild to severe respiratory issues, as it turns into hydrochloric acid inside the lungs of the victim. Death may result as the person struggles to breath or drowns in bodily fluids caused by the damage the gas creates internally.
Three separate chlorine gas attacks were discovered via a joint inquiry conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a branch of the United Nations. The organization also found that members of the Islamic State had used mustard gas in at least one attack in the region as well.
Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013, which bars the use of chlorine gas among a host of other chemical weapons in any combat setting. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has disputed claims that his military has utilized chlorine gas, or any other chemical weapon, against the citizens of his nation, but the United Nations and U.S. National Security Council have gathered sufficient evidence to warrant sanctions against members of the nation’s government, as well as one Syrian tech company that the government owns.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons,” Ned Price, spokesman for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said in his official statement. “The Assad regime’s barbaric continued attacks demonstrate its willingness to defy basic standards of human decency, its international obligations and longstanding global norms.”
The tech company named in the sanctions, The Organization for Technological Industries (OTI), was reportedly tasked with importing advanced technologies for use in Syria’s surface to air missiles and rocket program. The State Department cited al-Assad’s own address to the Syrian cabinet, in which he explained that OTI belonged to the Syrian Ministry of Defense and was involved with “high level technical industries” that the UN has determined to be in direct support of Syria’s WMD-capable ballistic missile program.
“The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people is a heinous act that violates the longstanding global norm against the production and use of chemical weapons,” said Adam J. Szubin, Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “Today’s action is a critical part of the international community’s effort to hold the Syrian regime accountable for violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and UN Security Council Resolution 2118.”
As a result of the sanctions put in place, none of the blacklisted officials may do business with any U.S. citizen, and all assets housed on U.S. soil attributed to any of those listed may be forfeit. Among those blacklisted were eleven general officers in Syria’s military, as well as five colonels. It also includes other branches of the governmental hierarchy, including the Scientific Studies and Research Center, which is accused of developing and producing “non-conventional” weapons and the means by which to deliver them.
Further sanctions may come as a result of a draft UN resolution brought about via the same investigation, though Syrian ally, Russia, possesses veto authority in such a vote. If adopted, the resolution would subject the ten individuals slated for UN sanctions to a global travel ban and asset freezes, though Russia has already made it clear that they oppose such legislation.
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