The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has recently released a report confirming that chlorine gas was used by the Assad regime in the attack on northern Syrian town of Saraqeb in early February. It was, of course, only one of several instances of the regime using chemical weapons against civilian populations. And it was not even the most recent such incident. The international community has been inconsistent in its response, but the United States recently took steps that could go a long way toward constraining Assad’s ability to carry on with these and other atrocities as he presses forward with the effort to stamp out all that remains of democratic resistance to his rule.
I am not referring to the Trump administration’s order of airstrikes in April. Despite the value of such interventions, they are insufficient on their own to address the roots of Assad’s ability to persistently suppress the basic rights of the Syrian people. Those roots lie not in Damascus but in Tehran, and so the US Treasury’s recent announcement of new sanctions on individuals and groups linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), may go further toward undermining Assad’s abuses than isolated airstrikes ever would.
Hampering IRGC’s influence
The new US sanctions, which include sanctions against the head of the Iranian central bank, clearly speaks to the necessity of weakening the financial underpinnings of the IRGC’s terrorist operations. This is a step in the right direction for Western policy, which has long refused to acknowledge the terrorist identity of the IRGC. Previously, the relevant US sanctions have been limited to the IRGC Quds Force, which is certainly the leading purveyor of Iran’s malign behaviors but cannot realistically be separated from the financial activities of its parent organizationHaitham al- Maleh