Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Sanctioning President Assad – what can it accomplish?
Most importantly, it will help President Obama in his presidential campaign. He can stand as someone who acts firmly against Arab dictators. He killed Bin Laden and sanctioned Bashar al-Assad. He takes decisive action and stands with the Arab street and for democracy. This will serve him well in his campaign. It also temporarily hushes the chorus of right wing critics in Washington who want to weaken Syria and end diplomatic relations with the regime. It also ends criticism that he has treated Syria with kid gloves while treating Libya with bombs.
Oddly, the sanctions against Syria’s top government figures come at a time when the regime is gaining control over the protest movement and suppressing dissent. The sanctions come too late to add momentum to the protest movement. They may prolong the movement but will not topple the regime.
They will add to Syria’s economic difficulties as the regime seeks to regain legitimacy in the future. The opposition failed to divide the Syrian army from the president, as happened in Egypt. They also failed to provoke a confessional split in the army as happened in Lebanon. Sunni soldiers have not split from Alawis, despite all the talk about “shabbihas,” which is code for Alawis.
The fall back position of the Syrian opposition must be to stifle the economy and work for a the ruin of the regime, when it can no longer pay the bills. These sanctions will help in a small way toward that end. Not clear to me is whether diplomats, senators, and heads of state can meet with President Assad while he is proscribed by Presidential order? The next logical step is is for Europe to join in the same targeted sanctions and eventually for European trade sanctions. President George Bush urged Europe to join the US in imposing trade sanctions on Syria, but in vain.
David Ignatius argued in his Washington Post Op-ed – Bashar al-Assad’s endgame: Can a bloodbath be avoided? – that “major nations conclude that [Assad’s} regime cannot survive.” He also writes that “The governments of France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan… are all said to have concluded that the Assad regime cannot survive”…. and Turkey will not support Assad.
Who in the world do they think is going to unseat Assad? This is most perplexing. Western leaders will certainly get a weakened Syria and a more isolated Assad from these sanctions but not regime change. Obama gains. Opposition leaders get more support. Syrians will get poorer.
U.S. slaps sanctions on Syrian president, top aides
By Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Quinn, Wed May 18, 2011, (Reuters) -
The United States imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and six other top aides for human rights abuses on Wednesday in a dramatic escalation of pressure on Syria to cease its brutal crackdown on protesters.
Targeting Assad personally with sanctions, which the United States and European Union have so far avoided, is a significant slap at Damascus and raises questions about whether Washington and the West may ultimately seek Assad’s removal from power….
The move, announced by the Treasury Department, freezes any assets of the Syrian officials that are in the United States or otherwise fall within U.S. jurisdiction and it generally bars U.S. individuals and companies from dealing with them.
In addition to Assad, the Treasury said the sanctions would target Vice President Farouq al-Shara, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, Defense Minister Ali Habib as well as Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, the head of Syrian military intelligence, and Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, director of the political security directorate.
While it was not immediately clear what practical effect the sanctions would have or whether the seven had significant assets that would be captured by the U.S. move, the symbolic gesture was profound.
“The actions the administration has taken today send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership, and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria,” said Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a written statement.
“President al-Assad and his regime must immediately end the use of violence, answer the calls of the Syrian people for a more representative government, and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform,” he added.
European governments agreed on Tuesday to tighten sanctions against the Syrian leadership, but said they would decide next week about whether to include Assad on the list….
Defiant Syria denounces US sanctions on Assad AFP
Defiant Syria denounces US sanctions on Assad AFP/File – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen in 2009. The United States has told Assad to lead a transition …
by Jocelyne Zablit
DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syria on Thursday denounced US sanctions imposed on President Bashar al-Assad and top aides, saying they were part of long-time efforts by Washington to impose its will in the region to Israel’s benefit. “The US measures are part of a series of sanctions imposed by successive US administrations against the Syrian people as part of a regional scheme, aimed primarily at serving Israel’s interests,” the official SANA news agency said.
Bashar al-Assad’s endgame: Can a bloodbath be avoided?
By David Ignatius in Wash Post
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is becoming increasingly isolated and vulnerable as major nations conclude that his regime cannot survive. The newly urgent question is how to negotiate a transition arrangement that will avert a bloodbath there between Assad’s ruling Alawite sect and the Sunni majority.
The governments of France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which at times in the past have been supportive of Assad, are all said to have concluded that the Assad regime cannot survive the repercussions of the violence it loosed on Syrian protesters in recent weeks. Turkey, too, which initially seemed eager to broker a compromise for Assad, also appears less supportive.
France, which a decade ago was Assad’s champion, is now said to have concluded that major powers, including Paris and Washington, should signal publicly that it is time for Assad to leave office. But the White House Tuesday appeared to be weighing whether to make one last attempt at brokering the kind of reforms that Assad has said for years he wanted but has never implemented.
The United States initially held back from personally sanctioning Assad, deciding instead to concentrate its fire on the hard-liners around him. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday, however, that the United States is preparing additional sanctions. Many U.S. analysts see Assad as having squandered any chance he had to be a credible reformer.
Israel, which seemed for a time to prefer “the devil we know” in Assad, has told the United States it doesn’t endorse this argument any longer.
The challenge for policymakers as Assad’s power fades is to find a transition process that can avoid a Libya-style military confrontation. The Syrian version of regime change could be far bloodier because of the deep enmity between Sunnis and the Alawite minority that has governed since Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, seized power in a coup in 1971. Already, in mixed cities such as Latakia and Homs, there is said to have been ethnic killing that could presage a much wider pattern of violence. Violence in Syria could also spill over into Lebanon……
The Syrian government has issued an order forbidding any demonstrations tomorrow – Friday.
وزارة الداخلية : تنفي الموافقة على اي ميسرات مؤيدة وسيعمم الأمر على التلفزيون الرسمي في حال تم الموافقة على اي مسيرة
Israeli official to meet members of Syrian opposition on post-Assad Syria under Austrian conservatives’ sponsorship
Popular Uprising in Syria: Beware of the Henchmen from Within
By Reinoud Leenders for RUSI.org
Even though it faces a range of protests, Syria is unlikely to face popular-led regime change. Instead, unremitting instability and a standoff between protestors and the regime are more likely to follow leading to a combination of piecemeal reforms and more violence. However, internal challenges to the regime should not be ruled out…..