US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Obama administration set new, largely symbolic, sanctions Friday on Syria's state-run oil company and the Hezbollah militant group, moves designed to underscore Iran's key role in propping up the Syrian regime over the span of its civil war.
State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell said the penalties against energy firm Sytrol come after it delivered $36 million worth of gasoline to Iran in April. At the same time, Tehran was "actively advising, supplying, and assisting the Syrian security forces and regime-backed militias that are carrying out gross human rights abuses against the Syrian people."
Meanwhile, the Treasury Department targeted Hezbollah for "training, advice and extensive logistical support to the government of Syria's increasingly ruthless efforts to fight against the opposition." It also blamed the Lebanese Shiite militant group for coordinating Iranian assistance to the Syrian government, reports The Associated Press.
Neither action will change Americans' behavior much. Americans have been banned from doing business with Hezbollah since the U.S. declared it a foreign terrorist organization in the 1990s. Decades of U.S. sanctions against Syria have hampered energy trade between the two countries, and President Barack Obama blacklisted any new imports a year ago.
Sytrol had mostly exported to the European Union, but the bloc also declared an embargo against Syrian oil last year.
"Hezbollah's extensive support to the Syrian government's violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region," the Treasury Department's sanctions chief, David S. Cohen, said.
Asked what the latest U.S. action against Hezbollah might accomplish, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, Daniel Benjamin, said he hoped it would lead other countries to follow suit. "That would limit the amount of space for Hezbollah to operate in," he told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Ventrell said Iran's support for the Assad regime, including equipment to monitor opposition activity on the Internet, was "completely unjustifiable." He said that Iran fears losing its only remaining ally in the Middle East, Syria.