EU cites "chemical weapons" as reason to sanction commander of Syrian city under ISIS blockade for 4 years
Tuesday the EU expanded its Syria sanctions. It added sixteen more names to its list of Syrians who are barred from entering the EU and whose assets in the EU are to be frozen.
Among the sixteen is Issam Zahreddine, the commander of Syrian defenders of Deir ez-Zoir. The Syrian city has been under ISIS, or joint ISIS-rebel siege continuously for 4 years now.
Zahreddine was flown in to take command of the encircled city in October 2013, when its previous commander was killed in combat. Zahreddine himself was wounded in Deir ez-Zoir shortly after his arrival. A son of his who is also an officer in the Republican Guard serves under him in the besieged city.
The EU cited "the use by the Syrian regime of chemical weapons and its involvement in chemical weapons proliferation" as the reason it found it necessary to expand its sanctions.
This is bizarre. Zahreddine has been holed up in Deir ez-Zoir for 3 years and 9 months now. Even if the chemical weapons attack in April was real, and actually the work of the Syrian government, which it wasn't, there is no way Zahreddine had anything to do with it.
The EU cites Zahreddine's role in Homs in 2012 as an additional reason to target him personally. However, the EU bizarrely depicts his actions as "repression against the civilian population" as if he were involved in putting down demonstrations. Instead the storming of the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs in 2012 was an actual battle against entrenched, and well-armed rebels.
If there is a war crimes case against Zahreddine for Homs in 2012 why wasn't he placed on a sanctions list as soon as it was drawn up in 2013? Why target someone in 2017 over a battle over 5 years ago? Has there any new evidence come to light? The EU certainly presents none. It is anyway unlikely since the storming of Baba Amr was well-publicized at the time already, thanks in large part due to the efforts and the death of advocacy journalist Marie Colvin who was embedded with the rebels and was eventually killed by Syrian artillery along their side.
It's safe to say encircled by ISIS Zahreddine isn't exactly thinking of visiting the EU anytime soon, and "most likely" doesn't have a secret German bank account for the EU to seize.
In fact it is hard to believe the EU sanctions will in any way affect any of the sixteen "sanctioned" Syrians.
So sanctions are once again a symbolic measure by the EU. Not actually meant to exert influence on what happens in Syria, but merely a way for EU officials to pronounce their supposed moral superiority over Syrian officials and soldiers.
Except here is one thing: How in the hell do horrible, bland, democracy-avoiding, tax-consuming eurocrats like Federica Mogherini possibly imagine they're the moral superiors of a guy who flew into a city surrounded by ISIS and has been defending it ever since? 3 years, 9 months, and counting.