U.S. announces sanctions on 271 Syrians linked to chemical weapons

The Trump administration has announced “sweeping” new sanctions against 271 Syrians linked to the use of chemical weapons earlier this month. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed the sanctions during today’s White House press briefing. From Reuters:

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), an agency that Washington says develops chemical weapons for the government of Bashar al-Assad, the Treasury said in a statement…

“These sweeping sanctions target the scientific support center for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack on innocent civilian men, women, and children,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

U.S. authorities, he said, would “relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities.”

The sanctions will freeze any assets held by the 271 individuals which are in the United States and prevent them from doing any business in the U.S.

After the chemical weapons attack earlier this month, the Trump administration responded by launching a Tomahawk missile strike against the airfield where the attack had been launched. After the attack, the American left was at pains to pronounce the strike a failure. Some claimed the airfield wasn’t significantly damaged and others began trying to focus attention on the lack of a follow-up plan.

The sanctions announced today demonstrate the Trump administration is serious about making Syria pay a price for its repeated use of chemical weapons after years of studied neglect by the Obama administration. They also demonstrate that a military response is not the only tool which will be used in pursuit of that goal.

Still, I imagine the individuals singled out today will be pondering what the next step in the U.S. response might be if Bashar al-Assad is unwise enough to launch another chemical attack.