The US on Wednesday slapped sanctions on the 18-year-old son of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, vowing never to let the war-torn nation’s regime enrich itself.
Hafez al-Assad — named after his grandfather, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for three decades — is banned from traveling or maintaining assets in the US, the US Department of State said.
The designation was part of a second set of sanctions under the Caesar Act, a US law that aims to prevent any normalization of Bashar al-Assad, even as he wins back most of Syrian territory after a brutal nine-year war.
“We will continue to hold Bashar al-Assad and his regime accountable for their atrocities, while keeping the memory of their victims alive,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “It is time for Assad’s needless, brutal war to end.”
The US had imposed sanctions on Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma.
Officials said that the sanctions against their only adult child were meant to stop Hafez al-Assad from becoming a conduit for his family.
“It has been such a prominent trend among Syrian regime actors to use their adult family members, whether their siblings or children, to try to continue business in their place after being sanctioned,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn said.
Rayburn said that the al-Assads are increasing their economic leverage as Syria looks to rebuild.
“For us, the point of the sanctions is to try to prevent the al-Assad regime from consolidating the kind of economic control that is then used to perpetuate the war and to perpetuate the killing machine against the Syrian people,” Rayburn told reporters.
Hafez al-Assad, the eldest of the al-Assads’ three children, has made headlines as a teenager mostly for his passion for mathematics.
He has taken part in international math competitions in Romania and Brazil, where in 2017 he finished 528th out of 615.
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