The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and six top aides for human rights abuses, Gulf News reports.
Observers call the move a dramatic escalation of pressure on the Syrian leader to cease the brutal crackdown he is carrying out on opposition protests to his regime.
Targeting Al Assad personally with sanctions, which the US and European Union had so far avoided, is a pointed slap at Damascus and raises the question of whether Washington and the West may back opposition calls for Assad's ouster.
The move freezes all assets of the named officials in the US, or which falls under US jurisdiction, and places a general bar on US individuals and companies from dealing with them.
In addition to Al Assad, the US Treasury Department said the sanctions also target Vice-President Farouq Al Shara'a, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaar, Defence Minister Ali Habib as well as Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, the head of Syrian military intelligence, and Mohammad Dib Zaitoun, director of the political security directorate.
The US also imposed sanctions on two Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders on Wednesday.
The US Treasury Department identified them as Qasam Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), and Mohsen Chizari, a senior IRGC-QF officer responsible for operations and training.
Unconfirmed reports suggest Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hizbullah fighters are bolstering Assad's strength during the crackdown.
Activists say at least 850 civilians have been killed in two months of clashes.