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Obama extends Syrian cutoff to leadership, government

JTA

May 18, 2011 | 1:16 pm

President Obama extended a freeze on Syrian assets to the country’s government and its entire leadership.

The order issued Wednesday is the most expansive yet targeting Syria, naming President Bashar Assad and including any “senior official of the Government of Syria” or “any agency or instrumentality of the Government of Syria, or owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Government of Syria or by an official or officials of the Government of Syria.”

The order cites “Syria’s continuing escalation of violence against the people of Syria—including through attacks on protestors, arrests and harassment of protestors and political activists, and repression of democratic change, overseen and executed by numerous elements of the Syrian government.”

Previous freezes, launched by President Bush in 2004, targeted only individuals believed to be involved in weapons of mass destruction development and in subterfuge in Lebanon and elsewhere.

The order issued Wednesday has the effect of essentially cutting off Syria from the United States and banning any U.S. business from trading with Syria’s government or its leaders.

Israeli and U.S. officials have said there has been a sea change in attitudes toward Syria since its brutal crackdown launched earlier this month against democracy protestors, and since it helped facilitate a breach by Palestinian protesters of its border with Israeli forces on the Golan Heights.

While both governments reviled the Assad regime in the past, officials have said, it was seen as preferable to the chaos that might ensue should it be overthrown.

Insiders have said that the Israeli and U.S. governments are now shifting gears and will not stand in the way of regime change.

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