By Jamie Crawford
The United States sanctioned 29 Syrian government officials along with companies linked to Syrian proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.
In a news release, the Treasury Department said the officials included the Syrian ministers of finance and justice as well as the governor of the Central Bank and other members of President Bashar al-Assad's Cabinet who had not been designated.
"Today's actions reflect the unwavering commitment of the United States to pressure the Assad regime to end the carnage and relinquish power," said David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "As long as Assad stays in power, the bloodshed and instability in Syria will only mount, and we will continue working with our partners in the international community to ensure that the inevitable political transition occurs as rapidly as possible."
The United States has sanctioned more than 100 Syrian individuals and entities, including the entire government, its Central Bank and oil companies.
The five companies targeted in Wednesday's action include entities that work with Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, which is responsible for developing Syria's stockpiles of biological and missile systems, and the missile delivery systems that service those weapons.
The center is owned by al-Assad's cousin Rami Makhluf, a billionaire industrialist and al-Assad insider already subject to U.S. sanctions.
U.S. officials said last week that there was evidence the Syrian government was moving its supply of biological and chemical weapons around the country. The existence of the weapons has alarmed Western officials, who fear that they could fall into the hands of extremists if the government loses control of them.
"We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons, and that the international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
The actions taken Wednesday will freeze any assets of the designated individuals or entities hold in the United States and prohibit any individuals or companies from dealing with them.