On Wednesday, the US slapped new sanctions on Syria that target prisons in the country and officials who run them. The US also sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya, a Turkish-backed group that operates in North Syria, and targeted al-Qaeda financiers.
The US sanctioned eight prisons and five Syrian officials over alleged human rights abuses. It’s unlikely that the measures will have any effect since the prisons probably don’t make financial transactions that could be subject to US sanctions.
The US already has Syria under crushing economic sanctions that specifically target its energy and construction sectors to prevent the country from rebuilding after 11 years of war. On top of the sanctions, the US also maintains an occupation force of about 900 troops in northeast Syria, where the bulk of the country’s oil fields are to keep the resource out of Damascus’ hands.
The northeast also has significant agricultural resources, and by keeping them from the Syrian government, the US occupation hurts the people and exacerbates food shortages. According to the UN, the number of Syrians that are close to starvation is at 12.4 million, or 60 percent of the population.
The US sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya over accusations of crimes against civilians, primarily Syrian Kurds. The sanctions appear to be a shift in policy, as the US has generally avoided going after Turkish-backed groups.
The Treasury Department said it sanctioned a Turkish-based al-Qaeda financier and a Syrian-based individual the US accuses of holding fundraisers for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). HTS is the al-Qaeda-linked group that controls most of the Idlib Province. Turkey does not outright support HTS, but Turkish-backed militants have fought alongside the al-Qaeda affiliate, and Ankara is suspected of coordinating with the group.