Analysis: ‘International Taboo on Chemical Weapons Frays As U.S. Steps Back’ via @KyleWOrton

Yesterday, the United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eighteen senior officials in the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions come in response to reports in August and October 2016 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations investigative body, which found that found “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.” This is three years after the Assad regime was spared punitive military strikes for its use of chemical weapons under a Russian-orchestrated “deal” that ostensibly disarmed Assad of such weapons.


Five officials from Syrian Air Force Intelligence (SAFI), Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI), and the Syrian Political Security Directorate (PSD) were sanctioned for individual responsibility in the commission of human rights abuses.

SAFI is probably the most powerful of Syria’s overlapping intelligence agencies. It was from SAFI that Bashar’s father, Hafiz, launched his coup d’état, and it remained the backbone of his regime ever-after. SMI, overseen by Bashar’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who was killed in a mysterious bombing in 2012, has been the regime’s contact point with various terrorist groups, including jihadist groups like Hizballah and the Islamic State (IS), which Assad facilitated, sheltered, and equipped in eastern Syria during its war with the Coalition and the Iraqi government after 2003. PSD is another intelligence agency, this one part charged with monitoring and repressing opposition. PSD runs the prisons where some of the Assad regime’s worst crimes against humanity have been committed.

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