The United States slapped two new sets of sanctions aimed at Syria and its allies Friday in hopes that further economic and political pressure will cause a change in the violence on the ground.
The sanctions are two-fold. First, the Treasury Department targeted already-designated Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, extending existing sanctions for their role in aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
"Hizballah's extensive support to the Syrian government's violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a press release Friday.
"Long after the Assad regime is gone, the people of Syria and the entire global community will remember that Hizballah, and its patron Iran, contributed to the regime's murder of countless innocent Syrians."
Although the new Hezbollah designation does not bring with it any further political or economic disadvantages for the militant group, the U.S. hopes the "name and shame" campaign will further diminish the group's standing globally.
"Over the long term, [the information brought to light in these sanctions] will limit the amount of space that Hezbollah has to operate," Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Daniel Benjamin told reporters in a call Friday.
"It will put the group in a more difficult situation, and, I think, will make them think long and hard before they continue this campaign in which the Syrian people are being brutalized."
Second, Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol was sanctioned under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) for their close ties to Iran's energy sector.
In April, Syria sent Iran $36 million worth of oil to Iran, well-above the $1 million threshold in which sanctions can be triggered.
"This kind of trade allows Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian government with resources to oppress its own people," Acting Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a press release.
Additionally, the U.S. views Iran's "broader support" for the Syrian regime as "completely unjustifiable," Ventrell added, saying Iran was advising, supplying, and assisting Syrian forces in the killing of its own people and in monitoring opposition activity on the Internet.
The announcement comes the same day as fighting in Aleppo continues between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and members of Assad's military. On Friday, Syrian rebels lost a key neighborhood in the city, being forced into a "tactical retreat" from the Salaheddin area.
Shelling has been reported in the town of Hama and government troops were raiding homes in the capital Damascus. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is slated to travel to Istanbul Turkey this weekend for talks on the continued violence.
Also on Friday, the UK announced it would be providing its first tranche of aid to the Syrian rebels. Nearly $8 million will be given to the FSA to be used for communication equipment and medical supplies, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
Hague said the aid was meant to "overcome the regime's communications blockade and ensure their message gets to the outside world."
"I have also agreed in principle that our assistance should include lifesaving protective equipment for civilians to help those carrying out vital work in the crossfire, and this could for instance include body armour," he added.
Unlikely talks between the Assad regime and the FSA were acknowledged as unachievable earlier this month when UN-Arab League special joint envoy for Syria Kofi Annan announced he would not be renewing his mandate to broker a ceasefire in the embattled country.
In the past two days, over 250 people have been killed by Syrian forces, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, a network of opposition activists, said.
The United Nations also increased their refugee estimate on Friday, saying 146,667 Syrians have fled into neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq since the fighting began last year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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