President Bush on Wednesday ordered a new round of financial sanctions against the Syrian government after concluding that it is not doing enough to stem the flow of fighters into Iraq.
The executive order broadens the number of Syrian officials whose assets can be blocked by the Treasury Department, officials said. Administration officials said they are still developing the list of individuals to be subject to such sanctions.
The Bush administration has a variety of grievances against the Damascus government, especially what it regards as an effort to undermine Lebanon's government and its support of militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But in announcing the new sanctions, U.S. officials cited Syria's inattention toward shutting down a flow of fighters into Iraq, such as by strengthening visa requirements.
"While the Syrian government has taken some steps against terrorists aimed at ensuring Syria's internal stability, Syria remains the primary route for terrorists crossing into Iraq," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "There are many verifiable actions Syria could take in this regard ... that would demonstrate a willingness to assist the efforts of the Iraqi government and the international community to stabilize Iraq."
The United States first imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, including a ban on all U.S. exports there except for food and medicine and on flights between the two countries. Those sanctions also authorized the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of individuals found to be involved in terrorism and other violations.