The United States on Wednesday imposed its toughest sanctions ever targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to choke off revenue for his government in a bid to force it back to United Nations-led negotiations and broker an end to the country's nearly decade-long war.
The fresh round of penalties on Syria, which designate Assad and his wife Asma personally, comes at a time when Assad is grappling with a deepening economic crisis after a decade of war and amid a rare outbreak of protests in government-held areas.
In a statement announcing the designations imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act - signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in December - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said 'many more' sanctions should be expected in the coming weeks and months.
"We will not stop until Assad and his regime stop their needless, brutal war against the Syrian people and the Syrian government agrees to a political solution to the conflict," Pompeo said.
He said the 39 designated individuals and companies have played a key role in obstructing a peaceful political solution to the conflict and singled out Asma al-Assad.
"I will make special note of the designation for the first time of Asma al-Assad, the wife of Bashar al-Assad, who with the support of her husband and members of her Akhras family has become one of Syria's most notorious war profiteers," he said.
Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for widespread hardship among ordinary residents, where the currency collapse has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.