Washington slapped sanctions on the Syria International Islamic Bank Wednesday, saying it had helped the Damascus regime skirt sanctions placed on the country’s leading bank.
Qatar is supporting the move with “corresponding actions,” the U.S. Treasury said, as the U.S. and allies step up pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, accused of orchestrating a brutal campaign of repression against a popular uprising.
The Treasury said SIIB “has acted as a front” for the Commercial Bank of Syria, Syria’s largest commercial bank, allowing it to circumvent sanctions already set by the United States, the European Union and the Arab League.
“Today’s action will add to the economic pressure on the Assad regime by closing off a key evasion route,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.
“The Treasury Department, working with others around the world who share our goal of ending the brutal repression of the Syrian people, will continue to close off the Assad regime’s access to the international financial system,” he said in a statement.
The Treasury said Qatar was working closely with the U.S. to help implement sanctions on Syria.
“We commend the Government of Qatar for its important regional and international role in maintaining economic pressure on the Assad regime,” the Treasury said.
“Today’s action does not target the Qatari investors who hold investments in SIIB.”
The sanctions forbid any U.S. citizen or entity from doing business with the bank and freeze SIIB’s assets held in the United States.