Washington, January 13: The United States blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials who were connected to the country’s weapon of mass destruction program and also identified five Syrian military branches as part of the Government of Syria was using chemical weapon attacks against civilians.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has taken this action in response to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Notably, United Nations (UN) Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) findings stated that the Syrian regime used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people.
The reports issued in August and October 2016, the JIM – established by the UN Security Council to investigate incidents of already-confirmed chemical weapon attacks – found that the Syrian government, specifically the Syrian Arab Air Force, was responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in Talmenes on April 21, 2014, and in Qmenas and Sarmin on March 16, 2015. In response to the reports’ findings, OFAC is for the first time sanctioning Syrian military officials in connection with the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.
Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin said, “The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people is a heinous act that violates the longstanding global norm against the production and use of chemical weapons.”
He further said, “This action is a critical part of the international community’s effort to hold the Syrian regime accountable for violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and UN Security Council Resolution 2118.”
The five Syrian branches involved in chemical attacks areSyrian Arab Air Force, Syrian Arab Air Defence Forces, Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, and Syrian Arab Republican Guard.
Whereas, Syrian officials involved in chemical weapon attacks are SAFI Colonel Suhayl Hasan al-Hasan, SAFI Colonel Muhammad Nafi Bilal, Muhammad Khalid Rahmun, SMI Brigadier General Yasin Ahmad Dahi, SMI Director Major General Muhammad Mahmud Mahalla, Major General Ahmad Ballul , Major General Saji Jamil Darwish, Brigadier General Badi’ Mualla, Major General Talal Shafiq Makhluf, Brigadier General Muhammad Ibrahim, Major General Rafiq Shihadah, Brigadier General Ghassan Abbas, Brigadier General Ali Wanus, Brigadier General Samir Dabul, Colonel Zuhayr Haydar, Colonel Habib Hawrani, Colonel Firas Ahmad and Bayan Bitar.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons. Syria has faced thousands of chemical attacks within few years due to a large number of innocent people died and many injured.
Importantly, Chlorine's use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. If inhaled, chlorine gas turns into hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in the resulting body fluids.