This week the US imposed a new round of sanctions against the Syrian government, and while this is nothing new, what is gaining attention is the unprecedented step Washington has taken against Bashar al-Assad's teenage son.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited that the continued sanctions under the 'Caesar Act' were geared toward ending Assad's "brutal war against the Syrian people."
U.S. Blacklists Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar’s 18 year old son.— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) July 31, 2020
The eldest of the Assads' 3 children, has made headlines mostly for his interest in mathematics.
Joel Rayburn said it was to preclude him from trying to do business for the government.https://t.co/grEs0Qtquh
President Assad's oldest son, 18-year old Hafez Bashar al-Assad (named after his grandfather who previously ruled Syria), is not known to be politically active or connected, and holds no office or decision-making abilities, but now under the new sanctions he won't be allowed to travel to or have assets in the US, reports The Guardian.
When pressed US officials admitted that the action against Assad's children are preemptive. US deputy assistant secretary of state, Joel Rayburn, was cited in the following:
Asked why Assad’s teenage son had been added to the list – he was born in 2001 – Rayburn said: “There has been a trend of senior Syrian regime actors and business people who have been active in the regime to do business through their adult family members to evade sanctions.”
“It seems very clear that the immediate family of Bashar al-Assad and their in-laws are attempting to consolidate economic power inside Syria so that they could use this to further consolidate political power.”
He said: “Assad would only use such power to strengthen the killing machine against the Syrian people”. He denied that the sanctions would have any impact on humanitarian trade or on the economy of Lebanon.
However, many analysts have pointed out that the sanctions are designed to ensure that Syria never recovers from its crushed war-time economy, not to mention the billions in damage to buildings, homes, and infrastructure across the country.
Also interesting is the fact that the sanctions do not target al-Qaeda held Idlib province, nor the oil and gas rich northeast section of the country occupied by US forces in support of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The far-reaching US sanctions now essentially "blacklist" anyone doing business with Damascus for any reason. As geopolitical commentator Jason Ditz points out: "This would cover a lot of basic commerce Syria might engage in in the course of reconstruction, particularly importing goods and services, and may force Syria to delay such rebuilding for lack of willing contractors."
Thus it appears that the US war on Syria will grind on for many more years to come.