The United States on Monday imposed new sanctions targeting Syria's oil sector, lawmakers and intelligence officers, vowing no let-up in pressure on Bashar Assad despite his gains on the ground.
"The Assad regime has a choice: take irreversible steps toward a peaceful resolution of this nearly decade-long conflict or face further crippling sanctions," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The Treasury Department and State Department barred transactions with 19 individuals or entities and froze any U.S. assets they might have – its fifth round of sanctions since a tough new U.S. law on Syria came into force.
Sanctioned entities include two partners of Syria's petroleum ministry – Arfada Petroleum Private Joint Stock Co. and Sallizar Shipping, which are at work on an oil refinery in war-ravaged Raqqa province and a terminal in the coastal city of Tartus.
The U.S. also slapped sanctions on Gen. Ghassan Jaoudat Ismail, head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, and Brigadier General Nasr Al-Ali, who heads the Political Security Directorate, a spy agency in charge of curbing dissent against Assad.
The Caesar Act, which took effect in June, restricts any U.S. reconstruction assistance and keeps up pressure on Assad, demanding accountability, even though he has won back control of most of Syria following more than nine years of bloodshed.
The State Department said it was imposing the latest sanctions in memory of the more than 70 civilians killed in an October 2015 bombing of a marketplace in Douma, a city near Damascus then under opposition control that was hit three years later by a chemical attack, according to a United Nations probe.
Six days after U.S. elections in which Democrat Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, Pompeo announced that the U.S. point man on Syria, James Jeffrey, 74, would retire this month.
A former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad and Ankara, the Turkish-speaking diplomat has been a key go-between with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Joel Rayburn, the current deputy assistant secretary for Levant affairs and special envoy for Syria, will replace Jeffrey as the special representative for Syria. Nathan Sales, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, has been designated as the next anti-Daesh coalition special envoy.