Obama unveils Syria technology sanctions
WASHINGTON / DAMASCUS
A pool of blood is pictured next to a damaged car after a bomb exploded in Damascus on April 24. REUTERS photoUnited States President Barack Obama ordered new sanctions on Syria and Iran and the “digital guns for hire” who help them oppress their people with surveillance software and monitoring technology, while activists claimed that nearly 60 people were killed on April 23 in violence across Syria.
The U.S. measures will hit the two governments but also companies that help create systems that track or monitor their people for killing, torture or other abuses and prevent individuals involved from entering the United States, Obama said. “I’ve signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence,” Obama said. “These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them.”
Car bomb blast kills three people in Damascus
“It’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come, the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people, and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.” On the ground, a Syrian intelligence officer was killed in Damascus yesterday, opposition sources said, and pro-government television reported at least three people wounded in a car bomb blast in the capital. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an intelligence officer was killed early yesterday in the Barzeh neighborhood of Damascus. Syria’s Ikhbaria television blamed the bomb on “armed terrorists” saying the explosion in a popular Damascus shopping district damaged buildings close to the capital’s famed Old City. Iran’s Fars news agency placed the blast outside the Iranian cultural centre, although the mission was not damaged.
A small group of unarmed U.N. military observers has been in Syria for just over a week to track an April 12 truce engineered by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The observer mission is supposed to grow to 300 unarmed personnel.
In the meantime, the U.N. food agency World Food Program (WFP) said it will soon deliver help to 500,000 people in Syria, a tenfold increase since December. Even after the increase, the U.N. says there are still around a million more who don’t have enough to eat. Meanwhile, al-Assad’s international allies must realize the Syrian president is “finished” and persuade him to step down to avoid further bloodshed, Tunisian President Moncef al-Marzouki said in a newspaper interview published yesterday.