By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – April 25, 2017 – US says it will “shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities”. – The US has sanctioned 271 employees of an Assad regime agency that develops chemical weapons, three weeks after the regime’s use of a nerve agent killed at least 93 people in northwest Syria.
The US Treasury imposed the restrictions on the staff of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, saying that some of those blacklisted had worked on the chemical weapons program for more than five years. The sanctions order American banks to freeze assets and bars US companies from transactions.
Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said Washington would “relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities.”
Israeli warplanes struck the SSRC in January 2013. The Obama Administration sanctioned people and companies in July 2016 for supporting the Center, and on January 12, the Treasury blacklisted six SSRC officials.
The Assad regime was ordered to hand over all chemical stocks and dismantle facilities after its August 2013 sarin attacks near Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people; however, international agencies say the regime has retained a small amount of chemical agents. Last week an Israeli official estimated the amount at three tons. On April 4, a regime Su-22 jet fighter fired a missile with a hybrid of chlorine and “sarin or a sarin-like substance”, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province. An estimated 87 civilians were immediately killed, and six subsequently killed in Turkish hospitals. Almost 600 people were injured.Three days later, two US warships fired 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat airbase, from where the Su-22 took off with the chemical munitions. It was the first direct American airstrike on an Assad regime position in Syria’s 73-month conflict.
The US has not taken any further military action, including an attempt to limit Russian and regime conventional bombing which is responsible for the majority of more than 200,000 civilian deaths in the conflict. Since April 7, Russia has escalated attacks, including with incendiary and thermobaric munitions, on Idlib, northern Hama, and western Aleppo Provinces.
Journalist Hadi al-Abdallah reports on a pro-Assad airstrike on Monday that killed at least five people and wounded dozens in a vegetable market in Khan Sheikhoun: www.mesop.de