The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) of the United States Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against certain foreign countries, entities and other Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”) based on US foreign policy and national security goals. OFAC acts under Presidential national emergency powers, as well as legislative authority. The list of sanctioned countries, entities and individuals is constantly evolving.

Given the current state of affairs in Syria, the United States recently imposed a series of additional sanctions against Syrian individuals and entities.

On April 29, 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13572 blocking property and prohibiting certain transactions related to Syria. Citing the Government of Syria’s “human rights abuses” including “the use of violence and torture against, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of, peaceful protestors by police, security forces, and other entities,” the Order finds that these actions constitute a threat to national security and foreign policy. The Order prohibits all transactions involving the property or property interests in the United States, that hereinafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person, including any overseas branch, of the following designated individuals:

  • Mahir Al-Asad, Brigade Commander in the Syrian Army’s Fourth Armored Division
  • Ali Mamluk, Director of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate
  • Atif Najib, former head of the Syrian Political security Directorate for Dar’a Province
  • Syrian General Intelligence Directorate
  • Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force
  • anyone responsible for, complicit in, or otherwise supporting the current human rights abuses in Syria;
  • senior officials of an entity whose property and interests are blocked pursuant to this order; as well as
  • anyone owned, controlled, or acting on behalf of any person whose property and interests are blocked pursuant to this order or Executive Order 13338 or Executive Order 13460

Following this Order, on May 18, 2011, the President, noting the Government of Syria’s continued “escalation of violence against the people of Syria,” expanded its scope to block property of senior government officials. The President’s Order added the following individuals to the sanctions list:  

  • senior officials of the Government of Syria;
  • any individuals or entities owned or controlled by the Government of Syria or an official of the Government of Syria;
  • Bashar Al-Assadm, President of the Syrian Arab Republic
  • Farouk Al-Sharam, Vice President
  • Adel Safar, Prime Minister
  • Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Shaar, Minister of the Interior
  • Ali Habib Mahmoud, Minister of Defense
  • Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, Head of Syrian Military Intelligence
  • Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, Director of Political Security Directorate  

These sanctions prohibit U.S. persons or entities, wherever located, from engaging in transactions with any designated individual or entity. While not all transactions with Syrian individuals and entities have been prohibited, the continuing conflict and recent expansion of the list of designated individuals and entities reflect the U.S. government’s intention to place increased pressure on Syria. In our experience, the government often takes an expansive view of the types of transactions or involvement in those transactions that are prohibited. We, therefore, urge clients to proceed with caution when dealing with any transaction involving Syrian individuals or entities.

These Executive Orders as well as other related administrative materials can be found on OFAC’s website: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/syria.aspx.