News / Middle East

    US to Slap New Sanctions on Syria

    Free Syrian Army fighter waits for Syrian Army tanks to advance in the Salaheddin neighborhood in central Aleppo, Aug. 10, 2012.
    Free Syrian Army fighter waits for Syrian Army tanks to advance in the Salaheddin neighborhood in central Aleppo, Aug. 10, 2012.
    Edward YeranianLisa Schlein
    The United States on Friday said it plans new sanctions against the Syrian regime and its supporters, including Lebanon's Hezbollah militants and the Syrian state oil company.
     
    "We will be tightening even further with additional sanctions that drive at both Syrian entities and those who are supporting the efforts of the Syrian government to oppress its own people," a U.S. official told reporters traveling with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Ghana.
     
    The U.S. considers Hezbollah a terrorist group. The U.S. Treasury's top official on terrorism and financial intelligence, David S. Cohen, said the group's actions have contributed to suppression of the Syrian people. The U.S. action freezes any Hezbollah assets in the U.S. and prohibits Americans and U.S. companies from dealings with the group.
     
    "Long after the Assad regime is gone, the people of Syria and the entire global community will remember that Hezbollah, and its patron Iran, contributed to the regime’s murder of countless innocent Syrians,” Cohen said.
     
    The U.S. cited the Syrian state oil company Sytrol for trading with Iran, which already faces U.S. sanctions over is disputed nuclear program. Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran in April, a deal estimated at $36 million.
     
    Continued Battles

    The U.S. actions came as Syrian rebels vowed to regroup and keep fighting as government forces launched a new bombardment of besieged Aleppo Friday amid an escalating flood of refugees to Turkey and Jordan.
     
    Reports from in and around Aleppo say government forces brought in more T-82 tanks and fresh troops to step up their attack on the embattled Salaheddin district.
     
    Arab media reported that some rebel Free Syrian Army rebel fighters withdrew from Salaheddin, while new fighters from elsewhere replaced them. Amateur videos showed FSA fighters firing automatic weapons as they ran back and forth along narrow side-streets.
     
    Syrian government warplanes continued to dominate the skies, firing at rebel positions on the ground and bombing many targets.
     
    Syrian state TV said government forces had driven "terrorist" fighters from out of most of Aleppo, showing a live web cam from the north of the city to show that life was going on as normal.
     
    Rebel field commander Malek al-Kurdi told VOA's Persian service on the Turkish-Syrian border that the rebels desperately need international help.
     
    "We had wanted an active role from the international community to take a bold decision to stop the massacres in Syria," he said. "But the delay and the modest capabilities of the Free Syrian Army has put the Syrian situation in a state of limbo. This has opened the way for extremist groups from different places with goals separate from the Syrian people to get financial support to continue the revolution." 
     
    Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, said the battle for Aleppo is not proving to be a knock-out blow for either side.
     
    He said that the rebels have not lost their resupply lines to Salaheddin, while in the Idlib countryside they're mopping up, making the rural areas beyond Aleppo more and more a safe haven for the opposition, challenged only by government air power.
     
    Abou Diab said that the battle for Aleppo is not as decisive as both sides are making it out to be, because the seat of power is in the capital, Damascus -- 600 kilometers away.
     
    Aid for Rebels

    Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 9, 2012Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 9, 2012
    x
    Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 9, 2012
    Deaths Across Syria, map dated Aug 9, 2012
    Britain said Friday it will give the Syrian rebels nearly $8 million for communications equipment and medical supplies.
     
    Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will still not supply any weapons and said the money will be used for items including mobile and satellite phones, power generators and medical and water purification kits. He told reporters the aid will also include body armor and other protective equipment for civilians in conflict areas.
     
    "This is not taking sides in a civil war," Hague wrote in an article published in the Times newspaper Friday. "The risk of total disorder and a power vacuum is so great that we must build relationships now with those who may govern Syria in the future."
     
    Hague said Britain will increase its contacts with the Syrian opposition. He said Britain will stress to the rebels that they must adhere to standards on human rights, no matter what "horrors" are perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
     
    Britain had previously allocated a little more than $2 million in non-lethal support to the opposition seeking to overthrow Assad and about $43 million in humanitarian aid.
     
    Hague told reporters Friday the Syrian people "cannot wait indefinitely" for a resolution to the conflict.
     
    The U.S. Secretary of State is expected in Turkey on Saturday for discussions with Syrian opposition leaders and Turkish leaders as how to bolster the anti-Assad cause.
     
    • A truck catches flames after it was hit by rockets fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter plane during an air strike in the village of Tel Rafat, some 37 km (23 miles) north of Aleppo, August 9, 2012.
    • A general view shows a street after clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad, in Salah Edinne district, in the center of Aleppo, August 9, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an anti-aircraft gun as a Syrian Air Force fighter bomber fires rockets during an air strike in the village of Tel Rafat, some 37 km (23 miles) north of Aleppo, August 9, 2012.
    • In this photo taken on guided government tour, Syrian army forces are seen at al-Sijen district, in the center of Aleppo, August 9, 2012.
    • A Syrian man reacts after the funeral of 29 year-old Free Syrian Army fighter, Husain Al-Ali, who was killed during clashes in Aleppo, in the cemetery in town of Marea on the outskirts of Aleppo city, August 9, 2012.
    • Men search for bodies under rubble of a house destroyed by a Syrian Air force air strike, in Tel Rafat, about 37 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria, August 8, 2012.
    • In this citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, Syrians attend the funeral procession of a man killed in Idlib province, August 7, 2012.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter runs after a Syrian Army tank shell exploded in the Salah al- Din neighbourhood of central Aleppo, August 5, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters fire their rifles during clashes with Syrian Army soldiers in the Salah al- Din neighbourhood of central Aleppo August 5, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army fighter holds a RPG launcher during clashes with Syrian Army in the Salah al- Din neighbourhood of central Aleppo August 5, 2012.
    • This image map provides an overview of the activity seen in Aleppo from July 23, 2012 to August 1, 2012 (base image collected on July 29, 2012).
    • More than 600 probable artillery impact craters, represented here with yellow dots, were identified in Anadan, in the vicinity of Aleppo.
    • In this August 5, 2012 photograph, Syrians pass by a destroyed house in town of Atareb outskirts of Aleppo, Syria.
    • Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover during clashes with Syrian Army soldiers in the Salah al- Din neighborhood of central Aleppo August 5, 2012.
    • Syrian women mourn the loss of loved ones in Aleppo fighting, August 5, 2012.

    UN Peace Efforts
     
    Meanwhile, diplomats say former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi could replace former U.N. chief Kofi Annan as the new United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria.
     
    Annan resigned from the post last week, blaming a lack of unity in the U.N. Security Council.
     
    Russia and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions on Syria that would have held President Assad responsible for his failure to abide by Annan's peace plan and threatened him with sanctions.
     
    News reports indicate Annan's replacement could be named next week.
     
    The 78-year-old Brahimi, who served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991 to 1993, would bring a high level of experience to the position after helping to end Lebanon's civil war in the late 1980s as an Arab League envoy.
     
    Brahimi also served as the U.N. envoy in Afghanistan both before and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
     
    Refugees Growing

    Turkey and Lebanon reported thousands of refugees crossing from Syria overnight.
     
    The United Nations refugee agency says it has registered nearly 150,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. It says many more Syrians have fled the country than are reflected in these numbers.

    Registered Syrian Refugees by Country

    Turkey:      50,227
    Jordan:     39,600
    Lebanon: 35,686
    Iraq:           9,053
     
    Source: UNHCR

    Nearly 200,000 of Aleppo’s 2.5-million residents have fled the city since battles erupted between the Syrian government and rebels in mid-July. Most of the Syrians are internally displaced.
     
    But a U.N. refugee spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said a growing number of Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries, especially to Turkey, in search of refuge.
     
    “There certainly, in the past week, has been a sharp increase in the numbers arriving into Turkey," Edwards said. "And, there, many of the people are coming from Aleppo and surrounding villages. Now, if you look at other areas, I think the situation is more of a steady and continued increase. But where fighting happens, we tend to see the consequences.”
     
    The nearly 150,000 refugees registered by the UNHCR do not accurately reflect the numbers of civilians that have fled Syria, Edwards said. A great many refugees in several countries have not registered with the U.N. They are living on their own or with family and friends.
     
    Edwards said the refugee population in Turkey has exceeded 50,000 people. More than 6,000 new arrivals were recorded this week. He says many of the refugees are from Aleppo and surrounding villages, but others are from Idlib and Latakia.
     
    Syrian refugees currently are living in nine camps in Turkey. Women and children make up more than two-thirds of the population.
     
    The Turkish government opened a new camp a few days ago. It also has announced it plans to construct a further 13 new sites that will be able to house an additional 50,000 refugees.
     
    Edwards said nearly 37,000 Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, but thousands more who have recently arrived in Lebanon are not yet registered with UNHCR.
     
    “Information campaigns and the dissemination of our office’s registration hotline continue in border villages to encourage newly arrived families to make themselves known to us," he said. "Displaced Syrian families have continued to cross Lebanon’s eastern borders into Beirut, Tripoli and Saida. Our protection staff continues to monitor the influx.”
     
    The U.N. reports nearly 46,000 registered refugees in Jordan, including almost 4,000 who arrived this month. Iraq has more than 13,500 Syrians either registered as refugees or receiving assistance; most of them are in Iraq's Kurdistan region.
     
    Iraq is also seeing a growing number of Iraqi returnees from Syria, where they had gone to escape violence in Iraq. The agency reports 23,228 Iraqi refugees have left Syria since mid-July to return to the homes they fled after the U.S.-led incursion into Iraq began in 2003.
     
    The U.N. says 89,000 registered Iraqi refugees remain in Syria.

    Ed Yeranian contributed to the article from Cairo, with Lisa Schlein in Geneva. Other information was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: ryu from: gulfport,ms.
    August 10, 2012 5:30 PM
    When will US going to do about this wholesale murder of Syrian people? Mr. Obama, stop worrying about ur re-election and save some human lives. You were voted into political office and given a rare chance to make a difference in this world. Do something please.

    by: Tu from: Manukau NZ
    August 10, 2012 4:27 PM
    I don't think sanctions are going to work against Syria or any other country that the American government don't like.Not while they have powerful allies like China and Russia backing them up.Your right, is America going to slap sanctions against China and Russia for supporting Syria.Doubt it

    by: angel sunny from: us
    August 10, 2012 4:24 PM
    The Syrian people don't hear sanctions that has no effect on the ground or Hillary's pointless lectures, they need weapons to defend themselves.. US under Obama has no real influence in SYRIA.
    Us needs to challenge the Russian, the China, and Iran by directly arming Syrian rebels. I voted for Obama before, but not again

    by: Stevo from: Staffs
    August 10, 2012 4:15 PM
    What a crap world we live on..The US have just landed on Mars ..but the Drug plagued USSR and the anti-Humane China still spit out communist rubbish....The next uprisings will be theirs ..people in the 21st century do not tolerate suppression..A world united will be a west led strategy...

    by: Juan pereda from: corona
    August 10, 2012 4:05 PM
    The US Sanctions do not work when there is a war, What the rebels need is Weapons to fight the Syrian army, Obama and his administration are too chicken, and have no guts or interest to help the FSA with at least anti Aircraft and Antitank weapons, It's a shame and if Assad wins, Obama is going to loose my vote and a lot of the Hispanic votes as well for not taking action.

    by: Ryno from: Oregon, USA
    August 10, 2012 1:19 PM
    So I guess the US will be imposing sanctions on Russian and China since they support Syria as well. I can't wait until we go to war with Russia and China HEHE!!
    In Response

    by: Dutra from: Leeds, England
    August 10, 2012 5:06 PM
    Tougher sanctions? Let me guess; Obama won't bow to them and Hillary is going to dance for them. Yep, that ought to bring them to their knees.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous from: UK
    August 10, 2012 4:49 PM
    It will happen sooner or later, once Assad's regime falls it will be Iran next. Israelie president Netenyahu is already pushing for attack on Iran. It will obviously be alot easier once Syria is out of the way, this is when i believe Russia and China will become involved.
    Welcome to WW3

    by: Ed Magowan from: Florida, USA
    August 10, 2012 1:19 PM
    More sanctions? Gee, that will CERTAINLY end the bloodshed. It's been such an effective strategy in other situations. There are enough weapons in the Middle East for concerned countries to get off their butts and do something - the U.S. does NOT need to be involved.

    by: President Obama from: Washinton DC
    August 10, 2012 1:08 PM
    I beat there heads stink under those pillow cases they wear !

    by: Michael from: USA
    August 10, 2012 8:55 AM
    Britain's $8 million is a dedication to assistance and paves the way for the attitude most likely to succeed in Syria. The history of it's Empire allows it to transcend civic fear in order to open the problem onto an international perspective
    In Response

    by: jason from: usa
    August 10, 2012 1:44 PM
    yes, it's pocket change.
    In Response

    by: Patrick from: Usa
    August 10, 2012 1:03 PM
    $8M....barely enough to buy a few ads during the super bowl

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