"The action we're taking today highlights the really serious concerns that the United States has about the close ties shared by the Iranian and Syrian regimes and the fact that we, the United States, are committed to using every tool available to prevent regional destabilization," a senior administration official said on a conference call.
The official said Syria and Iran engaged in a two-way trade in April in which Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran. The value of the gasoline was more than $36 million, the official said, significantly exceeding the threshold to trigger sanctions.
Such trades enable Iran to develop its nuclear program in violation of U.N. resolutions while providing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad the resources to continue its violent crackdown on dissent, the official said.
"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 and is also providing the Assad regime with equipment to monitor opposition activity on the Internet," the official said.
"Today's actions against Sytrol send a stark message: The United States stands resolutely against sales of refined petroleum product to Iran, and more broadly that we, the United States, take any business that continues to support Iran's energy sector and continues to support the Assad regime, or that helps facilitate either nation's efforts to evade U.S. and international sanctions, is going to face very serious consequences."