Obama gives Treasury new sanctions tool against Syria, Iran

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President Obama Tuesday beefed up his sanctions policy against Syria and Iran, giving the U.S. Treasury the ability to crack down harder on foreign firms and individuals who violate existing measures.

The latest move against Syria and Iran, contained in an executive order, would punish individuals who either violate prior U.S. sanctions or helped others evade them. The new authority gives Treasury the ability to publicly identify such foreign individuals and entities and bar them from access to the U.S. financial and commercial systems.

The executive order “provides Treasury additional means to impose serious consequences on foreign persons who seek to evade our sanctions and undermine international efforts to bring pressure to bear on the Iranian and Syrian regimes,” said David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Whoever tries to evade our sanctions does so at the expense of the people of Syria and Iran, and they will be held accountable.”

The new order helps ensure that the Americans do not accidentally undercut the sanctions because they will no longer be able to do business with entities and individuals that break the sanctions.

Iran and Syria already face several layers of U.S. sanctions. In late March, the president signed off on sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports, after determining there was enough crude supplies in the world market that taking the step wouldn’t harm U.S. allies or drive gas prices even higher.

That decision gave the administration the the ability to impose sanctions on foreign banks that continue to conduct business from Iran’s central bank, cutting them off from the financial systems of the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. and European Union have issued a string of sanctions against Iran to isolate it from the world economy and pressure Tehran to stop developing its disputed nuclear program and against Syria to try to stop President Bashar Assad from continuing a bloody assault on opponents of the regime.

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