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US plans to expand sanctions against Syria to external support groups like UAE, Lebanon: report

The US is eyeing sanctions on those tied to Assad from the UAE, Lebanon [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 August, 2020

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Supporters and associates of the Syrian regime in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates will be the targets of additional sanctions, a report said.
US President Donald Trump's administration is preparing a new round of sanctions against Syria's regime, with plans to expand the blacklist to financial support networks such as the UAE and Lebanon, American officials told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

This, officials said, would escalate international pressure for peace talks and political transition.

The US has also already blacklisted Iranian and Russian companies and officials they found supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We are maintaining our maximum political and economic pressure...targeting the regime, particularly military elements and those who are facilitating oligarchs, and others who are facilitating Assad's evil work," James Jeffrey, the US State Department's special representative for Syria told the WSJ

Earlier in the year, Jeffrey warned the emirates could face retribution after the reopening of the UAE embassy in Damascus.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed had also offered coronavirus aid directly to Damascus – Assad's stronghold.

"The UAE knows that we are absolutely opposed to countries taking these diplomatic steps" of rapprochement with Syria. Those who aid the regime in any way "are a potential sanctions target," Jefferey said in June.

A spokesperson for the Emirati foreign ministry confirmed to the WSJ that it had sent medical assistance.

Read more: US threatens UAE with Caesar Act sanctions over normalisation with Syria

Last year, the UK seized bank accounts held by a niece of Assad that had funds that circumvented European Union sanctions against the Syrian regime. Around $200,000 of the deposits allegedly came from Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a brother of Sheikh Mohammed.

Unnamed US officials additionally said senior officials –  including longtime central bank governor Riad Salameh – had received private warnings against providing assistance to the Syrian regime. 

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