Washington — The U.S. government has lifted its sanctions against former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who recently defected from the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“This action is being taken because Hijab is no longer a senior official of the government of Syria,” a statement from the Treasury Department said August 14. The Treasury action removes Hijab’s name from the list of “blocked persons” and his assets are no longer subject to being put under “freeze,” the statement said.
The U.S. government urges other high Syrian officials, both political and military, to take “similarly courageous steps” to sever their ties with the Assad regime and “stand with the Syrian people.” Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the United States has used a variety of tools to target and sanction senior Syrian officials and Syrians who have perpetrated human rights abuses.
Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen said the measures are having the desired effect. “Recent civilian and military defections from the Assad regime are further indications that the government is crumbling and losing its grip on power,” Cohen said. Hijab and 28 other members of the Syrian government were placed on the U.S. sanctions list July 18, three weeks before Hijab’s defection to Jordan.
Speaking to reporters in Amman August 14, Hijab said, “The regime is collapsing morally, materially and economically. Militarily, it is crumbling, as it no longer occupies more than 30 percent of Syrian territory.” He pledged his support for the opposition.
The Treasury statement said, “It is not too late for others who continue to provide support to the Assad regime to sever their ties and be relieved of the burden of sanctions.”