(CNSNews.com) - Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced Monday that the Trump administration has imposed sanctions against 271 employees of Syria’s scientific research center for the April 4 chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians.
“Earlier today, the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control imposed sanctions in response to the April 4, 2017 sarin attack on innocent civilians by the regime of Syrian dictator Assad. OFAC is sanctioning 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center - the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and means to deliver them,” Mnuchin said during the White House press briefing.
Mnuchin said the Treasury Department targeted these employees, “because they have expertise in chemistry and related fields or have worked in support of chemical weapons programs since at least 2012.”
Monday’s sanctions are considered “one of the largest ever executed” by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), he said.
“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. These 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 in U.N. Security Council resolution 2118,” Mnuchin said.
A reporter asked whether Monday’s sanctions are the only kind of sanctions expected to be imposed on Syria for the chemical attack and whether Mnuchin is considering imposing sanctions against Russia for not doing enough to dissuade Bashar al-Assad.
“We don’t comment on the specifics of sanctions that we are going to do in the future, but again, what I will tell you is these sanction programs are very important. They’re very effective, and we will continue to use them to the maximum amount available by law,” Mnuchin said.
A reporter asked what the sanctions against the Syrian government workers actually do and what’s different today than yesterday before OFAC imposed the sanctions.
“Well, the sanctions are enormously important. So by identifying 271 additional people, these sanctions, as you know, will both freeze assets, if there’s assets here, and prevent U.S. entities from doing business, as well as these sanctions have enormous impact with all of our partners around the world who also work with us on these issues,” Mnuchin said.
“The United States is sending a strong message with this action 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,” he said.
“The Treasury Department together with the Department of State and our international partners will continue to relentlessly pursue and shut down any the financial networks of any individuals involved with Syria’s production or use of chemical weapons,” Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin said that sanctions were imposed recently on North Korea and Iran, “and we’ll also continue to add to and monitor those as appropriate.”