WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday it sanctioned Syria’s state-run oil company Sytrol for providing gasoline to Iran and repeated its criticism of Iran for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad is trying to crush a rebellion against his family’s 42-year rule of Syria. A member of Syria’s Alawite minority, he is fighting mostly Sunni Muslim foes who Damascus says are backed by Sunni-led states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
The State Department said it had sanctioned Sytrol under the Iran Sanctions Act, which has been strengthened in recent years to make it more difficult for companies to trade with the energy sector in Iran, which the West suspects of seeking nuclear arms.
Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying its program is solely for civilian purposes such as generating electricity.
The State Department said that in April Syria and Iran engaged in two-way trade in the energy sector in which Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran. It said the United States put the value of the gasoline delivered by Sytrol to Iran in April at more than $36 million, well above the thresholds for triggering sanctions under the Iran sanctions act.
“This kind of trade allows Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian government with resources to oppress its own people,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in the statement.
“Though these sanctions are a direct result of Syria’s provision of gasoline to Iran, the United States views Iran’s broader support for the Assad regime as completely unjustifiable,” the spokesman added.
“Iran is 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,” he added.
“Iran is also providing the Assad regime with equipment to monitor opposition activity on the Internet.”