Obama announces new Iran, Syria technology sanctions

During his first visit to the Holocaust museum as President, Obama introduces a new set of sanctions against entities aiding the regimes of Iran and Syria to use technology to target citizens and erode their human rights.

United States President Barack Obama on Monday announced new sanctions on people and entities in Iran and Syria who have deemed to use technology to target citizens and erode their human rights.


President Barack Obama speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington - photo by AP

Speaking at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. before a crowd of Holocaust survivors, administration officials, members of Congress, and leaders of Jewish organizations, Obama commented on the situation in Syria and Iran.

Obama on Sunday signed an executive order leveling sanctions against those providing information technologies to the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

“These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” Obama said. “And 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.”

Obama’s new steps aim to counter violations of human abuses through technology. While rebellions in countries like Libya and Egypt have been fueled by cellphones and social media, other regimes have used technology to track dissidents or block Internet access.

For example, Iran has provided the regime of Assad with technology to jam cellphones and block or monitor the social networking sites rebels would use to organize demonstrations.

Obama has also asked the U.S. intelligence community to include assessments of the likelihood of mass killings in its National Intelligence Estimates.

The White House also announced a set of “challenge” grants for companies that help create new technologies to help warn citizens in countries where mass killings may occur.

Addressing the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama pledged U.S. support for Israel. “When faced with a regime that threatens global security, denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” said Obama.

Obama mentioned, however, that there are other options aside from military intervention. “We know that our work will never be done.  There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved.  There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented. We can’t intervene militarily every time there is injustice in the world, but we have other tools,” said Obama.

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By Natasha Mozgovaya and The Associated Press