US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he is preparing new sanctions against Syria, escalating an already intense situation following President Donald Trump’s authorization of a missile attack on a Syrian airbase.
“We expect that those (sanctions) will continue to have an important effect on preventing people from doing business with them,” Mnuchin told reporters on Friday. “These sanctions are very important and we will use them the maximum effect.”
The secretary added that the sanctions would be introduced in the near future.
The measure is part of Washington’s response to what it claims was a Syrian chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun that killed over 70 people on Tuesday.
Mnuchin made the comments hours after the US Navy’s USS Porter and USS Ross guided-missile destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean at Syria’s Shayrat airfield.
The US and its Western European allies have been among major sponsors of a foreign-backed terrorist campaign across Syria since 2011, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Washington had already imposed sanctions against Syria over Damascus’ alleged use of chemical weapons during its years-long war against terrorist groups.
In January, for example, then US President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department declared new sanctions against the Syrian military, 18 government officials and a tech company.
The US State Department claimed in a statement that the fresh sanctions were imposed “in response to the use of chemical weapons” by the Syrian government without pointing to a specific case and years after Damascus gave up its remaining stockpile of chemical weapons.
This is while, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the United States back in 2013. The United Nations Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has overseen operations to remove the government chemical arsenal from Syria.
Elizabeth Hoff, World Health Organization (WHO)’s representative in Syria warned in March that the Western sanctions on Syria seriously affected the treatment of Syrian children with cancer by blocking specific medicine, including anti-cancer medicines, from entering Syria.