Last Updated: Fri Mar 30, 2012 19:11 pm (KSA) 16:11 pm (GMT)

U.S. hits Syrian defense minister, 2 other military figures, with sanctions

The Treasury Department announced measures Syria’s Defense Minister  against Dawoud Rajiha who was appointed in August, 2011. (File photo)
The Treasury Department announced measures Syria’s Defense Minister against Dawoud Rajiha who was appointed in August, 2011. (File photo)

The United States hit Syria’s defense minister and two other senior military figures with sanctions Friday, ramping pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime as U.N. efforts failed to halt violence.

The Treasury Department announced measures against Dawoud Rajiha as well as the army’s deputy chief of staff and the head of presidential security.

In a sternly worded statement the Treasury Department said it would hold individuals accountable for a bloody crackdown that has claimed an estimated 9,000 lives and injured thousands more.

“The United States will continue to work with our partners around the world to ensure that the Syrian regime and its senior officials are held accountable for the continued repression in Syria.”

Diplomats believe that such personal sanctions could be instrumental in cleaving support away from Assad, as members of his inner circle contemplate foreign bank accounts being frozen and assets being seized.

“The time has long since passed for Syrian officials at all levels to turn their backs on this bloody regime,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

The sanctions come amid an effort by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan to broker a ceasefire, which has so far been unsuccessful.

The failure of Annan’s efforts appears to be wearing thin in Washington, amid fears that negotiations are being used by Assad’s regime as a cover for further violence.

The Treasury Department said Rajiha was appointed in August, 2011, in the midst of the crackdown, chosen for “his loyalty to the Assad regime.”

Deputy chief of staff Munir Adanov was also named; he has accompanied Assad on several foreign visits and is already on a European Union sanctions list.

Zuhayr Shalish, the head of presidential security, is Assad’s personal bodyguard and a relative.

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