Treasury Targets Assad Regime Scientists with New Sanctions

Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) is described by Bashar al Assad's government as a civilian research centre, but US Treasury officials said on Monday that it is focused "substantively on the development of biological and chemical weapons".

In a statement released earlier Monday, Mnuchin said "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".

The sanctions are part of a bigger deterrent effort to stop funding said U.S. officials, in a bid to halt support for President Bashar Assad and his government in the bitter civil war which has torn Syria apart.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions send a "strong message" that the United States will hold the Assad regime accountable for "blatant human rights violations".

In January of this year the Treasury announced sanctions against 18 senior regime officials after findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that showed the Assad regime was responsible for chlorine gas attacks against its own people in 2014 and 2015.

He did not immediately provide details of the sanctions.

The sanctions mean that American citizens will be forbidden from having any dealings with them. It's one of the largest sanction actions in USA history.

The move is part of a crackdown on the alleged use of chemical weapons, the latest of which happened in rebel-held northern Idlib on 4 April in the village of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people.

The attack on April 4 in the village of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria killed more than 80 people and prompted a US missile strike on the air base linked to the attack.

Earlier this month, the United States launched dozens of missiles against a Syrian air base the Pentagon says was used to launch the chemical attack.

The SSRC has been hit with sanctions before - it was blacklisted by George W Bush's administration in 2005 after being accused of creating weapons of mass destruction.