On Aug. 18, 2011, President Obama imposed additional sanctions against the government of Syria by signing his third Executive Order on the issue this year. Like the others, this Order adds to those sanctions imposed on Syria in 2004. However, the Aug. 18 order prohibits U.S. financial entities and persons from engaging in transactions or dealings with the government or its agencies, instrumentalities and controlled entities. It also bans the importation of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products and prohibits any U.S. person from engaging in transactions relating to Syrian petroleum or petroleum products.


The U.S. government has imposed three types of sanctions against Syria. The first, and most comprehensive, is the Syria Accountability Act, enacted in 2004, which prohibits the export to Syria of most goods that are more than 10 percent U.S. content. Two years later, as part of the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress enacted sanctions against the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS), which prohibit U.S. banks and their subsidiaries from maintaining correspondent accounts with CBS and requires the banks to conduct due diligence to ensure CBS is not circumventing sanctions. The third type consists of eight Executive Orders issued by the president. These Executive Orders impose financial sanctions on Syrian individuals and entities for involvement in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, association with terrorist organizations, destabilizing activities in Iraq or Lebanon, or benefitting from public corruption.

Aug. 18, 2011 Executive Order

This most recent Executive Order imposes sanctions against Syria and is intended to reflect the ongoing commitment of the United States to ensure that assets of the Syrian government cannot be used to further Syria’s human rights abuses. It is a direct response to that government’s escalation of violence and repression during the past several weeks.

The Order prohibits (1) any U.S. person from engaging or “facilitating” transactions with the Syrian government; (2) any U.S. imports of Syrian petroleum or petroleum based products; and (3) any U.S. person from exporting or investing in Syria.

As part of the ban on U.S. exports to Syria, the Order prohibits the “exportation of services” to Syria. The Order does not define “exportation of services.” However, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has defined the exportation of services as the provision of services in the United States or outside the United States by a U.S. person where the benefit is received in the target country. The Syrian sanctions will likely be interoperated consistently with prohibitions in place with respect to Cuba, Iran, Sudan and other countries subject to OFAC sanctions.

To view the executive order, visit the following link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/thepress- office/2011/08/18/blocking-property-government-syria-and-prohibiting-certaintransactions-