Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Will Sanctions Bring Down the Syrian Regime?
It is doubtful that sanctions alone will cause regime-change in Syria. Economic deprivation and reduced government spending does not usually lead to regime-change. It is hard to think of a Middle Eastern government that has been brought down by sanctions. Some of the countries that have faced sanctions for decades are Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan. Of course Gaza has faced severe sanctions in an effort to bring down the Hamas government with very little success. What sanctions do very effectively is make people poor and hungry. Governments are good at passing along the pain. In Gaza there is 80% unemployment and widespread malnutrition but no regime change. The UN estimates that sanctions on Iraq killed over 300,000 Iraqis in the 1990s. Starving Syrians is not the intention of US and European policy makers who imposed the sanctions. They continue to insist that Assad will step down due to sanctions. But what Arab leader has ever stepped down as a result of having his country sanctioned? As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
The good policy makers in Western capitals are not insane, so what are they up to?
- Are they simply imposing sanctions because it is a politically inexpensive way to do something? After all, military intervention, which is the tested method to bring about regime change, is unthinkable today.
- Could some policy makers be hoping to ratchet up the humanitarian disaster in Syria in order to create an “intervention friendly environment” down the road? This seems far fetched but the humanitarian argument was one of the more persuasive rationals for intervening in Iraq. The more extreme the disaster, the more extreme solutions people are willing to entertain.
The problem with sanctions is that they destroy national institutions, decimate the middle class, and degrade society. We saw this in Iraq. The results are not pretty. They make building democracy all the more difficult when the offending regime is finally overturned. The only thing we know about democracy promotion with any certainty is that its chances of success rise exponentially with greater per capita GDP. A long sanctions regime can only hurt democracy promotion. We all know about the magic of the middle class. It is hard to do anything constructive in a country without one.
Religion. The Arab League vote split the Arab countries along Shiite-Sunni lines. Countries with large Shiite populations — Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen — voted with Syria or abstained. Another troubling aspect of the Syrian conflict is that the region’s minorities are remaining faithful to Assad and Syria’s Alawi-led regime even as it grows increasingly isolated. The Christian minority in the region has come out fairly solidly behind Assad. Egyptian Copts prayed for Assad in a large stadium the other day (Egyption Christians pray for Syrians And Syrian President 11-12-2011). Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Yohana Ibrahim, said President Bashar al-Assad was “the best man” to lead reform in Syria. (Syrian archbishop says ‘everyone loves’ Assad). The Maronite Patriarch of Lebanon upset many when he backed Assad and warned against regime-change in Syria. The growing religious divide in the Middle East is not new, but it is troubling. It suggests that Assad will not relinquish power, as King Abdullah of Jordan and other regional leaders are urging him to do. It also suggests that Assad’s base support among minorities will not crumble easily. Religion has a way of making martyrs.
A friend writes that his parents cannot find cooking gas in Aleppo. The replacement bottles for the stove are unavailable in the market. Mazoot, or fuel-oil, which is used to heat homes, power taxis and farm equipment is also absent, or available at high prices. Aleppo authorities also warn that extended electric cuts are coming due to lack of power. Syria is facing a cold winter. Older people are standing in lines to get small containers of mazoot filled. The Syrian pound has fallen to 54.25 to a dollar.
News Round Up
Pro-Syrian regime protesters, carry a giant Syrian flag during a demonstration against the Arab League decision to suspend Syria, in Damascus, Syria, November 13, 2011. Similar pro-government demonstrations were held in Aleppo and Latakia.
DJ Arab League To Send 500 Observers To Syria, 2011-11-14
CAIRO (AFP)–The Arab League is preparing to send observers to Syria but needs guarantees from Damascus on their mission and the rights of each side, the organization’s chief, Nabil al-Arabi, said Monday.
An estimated 70people have been killed mostly in clashes between Syrian security forces and defectors in the southern city of Dera’a, in what has been the bloodiest day since the start of the uprisings. Meanwhile, crowds angered by comments byJordanian King Abdullah urging President Bashar al-Assad to step down stormed the Jordanian embassy in Damascus, bringing down the country’s flag.
The suspension and imposition of sanctions by the Arab League on Syria that is due to take effect on Wednesday is being met with uproar from the Syrian regime and its supporters. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem denounced the move as an “illegal” and “dangerous step” saying that “Syria will not budge and will emerge stronger…and plots against Syria will fail.” Regime supporters attacked the Turkish, Saudi Arabian, and Qatari embassies in protest of the suspension.Foreign governments have had varied responses. Russia condemned the suspension accusing Western nations of inciting the opposition. Angered by the attack on its embassy, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davultoglu asserted, “We will take the most resolute stance against these attacks and we will stand by the Syrian people’s rightful struggle.”The European Union reached an agreement to extend sanctions. King Abdullah of Jordan called for Bashar al-Assad to resign stating, “If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life. Syria has requested an emergency meeting with the Arab League prior to the suspension and said it will meet with representatives from the opposition on Tuesday.
EU Places New Sanctions on Syria – Wall Street Journal
European Union foreign ministers announced new sanctions on Syria even as they insisted that the situation in the country didn’t merit the same military response they mounted in Libya earlier this year.
Turkey May Review Energy Supplies to Syria, Minister Says, 2011-11-15, By Emre Peker
Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) — Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the government is currently providing power supplies to Syria and may reconsider “all decisions” on the matter if its southern neighbor’s policies don’t change, according to state-run Anatolia news agency…..
Iranian Officials Meet With Syrian Opposition – 2011-11-14, by Richard Spencer in the Telegraph
Iranian officials have held talks with Syrian opposition leaders, in a dramatic sign of the growing isolation of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Several separate opposition sources have told The Daily Telegraph that Iran opened a channel to a “moderate” opposition group about a month ago. Officials met Haytham Manna and other members of a group known as the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change, or the National Coordi
nating Committee. The group is strongly opposed to foreign intervention in Syria, and is likely to be seen as more acceptable to Iran than the largest group, the Syrian National Council, which has argued for “international protection” for civilians…..
Syria’s fragmented opposition
As anti-government forces try to develop a united voice, Al Jazeera looks at the disparate groups within.
Roxanne Horesh Last Modified: 10 Nov 2011 13:42
Syria’s economy is key to Assad’s future
By Liz Sly, Monday, November 14
BEIRUT — The dramatic decision by Arab states to turn against President Bashar al-Assad could further damage Syria’s economy at a time when it is already unraveling, posing perhaps a graver challenge to Assad’s survival than the country’s nearly-eight-month-old popular uprising, analysts say.
The broader loss of regional support represents an important psychological blow to a regime that has long prided itself as a champion of Arab nationalist causes. In one indicator of how far Assad’s fortunes have fallen, Jordan’s King Abdullah II suggested Monday that the Syrian president step down, though he hedged that call, telling the BBC that Assad needed to ensure an orderly transition.
It was, nonetheless, the most explicit rejection yet by an Arab leader of Assad’s rule ahead of an Arab League meeting Wednesday to discuss further measures against Syria, including economic sanctions.
They could have a more profound and immediate effect than the withdrawal of political support, given that Western powers are ruling out military intervention and anti-government demonstrations have seen neither the protest movement nor the Syrian security forces gain a decisive advantage. On Monday, the European Union announced that it would expand its sanctions, to include 18 more individuals associated with the Assad regime and denial of access to the European Investment Bank.
“The economy is a trigger of a lot of other issues on a broader level,” said Ayham Kamel, Middle East analyst with the Eurasia Group. The business community has supported Assad so far, he said, “but over a longer period of time, they’re going to reevaluate.”
The extent of the damage is difficult to measure, and Syrian government officials say they don’t have indicators. But they do not play down the gravity of the situation.
Syrian Economy Minister Mohammad Nidal al-Shaar said at a conference last month that the economy is in a “state of emergency,” according to comments quoted by the Damascus-based Syria Report. In a recent interview in Damascus, Adib Mayalah, governor of the Central Bank of Syria, described the situation as “very serious” and ticked off the problems the economy is facing.
“Unemployment is rising, imports are falling, and government income is reduced,” he said. “In areas where there are protests, there is no economic activity — so people aren’t paying tax. Because they aren’t working, they are not repaying their loans — so the banks are in difficulty. And all this is weakening the economy.”
Merchants interviewed recently on the streets of Damascus report a 40 to 50 percent fall in business as consumers hoard cash and cease spending on all but the most essential items. Tourism has skidded to a halt, representing a loss of $2 billion a month to an economy worth $59 billion last year, Mayalah said.
“The whole system has been shrinking — and very fast,” said Rateb Shallah, a prominent Damascus businessman. “The sanctions are squeezing us, and it is definitely affecting us quite a bit.
To what extent the downturn is due to the sanctions isn’t clear, however.
Until now, only the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan have imposed sanctions on Syria, with relatively limited measures mostly targeting individuals and financial services. The most serious measure, a European embargo on oil purchases imposed in August, goes into effect only on Tuesday because Italy sought to ensure that its existing contracts were honored.
But the experience of the oil embargo illustrates the broader crisis of confidence confronting Syria. European nations, which account for a vast majority of Syrian oil exports, immediately halted their purchases, even though they were not required to do so for three more months. And oil pumped since then has gone unsold, despite Syria’s boasts that it would easily find other customers. Syria has curtailed its oil production by more than 25 percent, Mayalah said.
In a similar fashion, the restrictions on financial services and individuals have had a detrimental effect even on aspects of the economy that aren’t directly connected, by dissuading investors and companies from doing business with Syria. The Central Bank of Syria has not been sanctioned, but many businesses are refusing to engage with it because they fear falling foul of the U.S. prohibition on trade in services with Syria and jeopardizing their interests elsewhere, Mayalah said.
Foreign investment has slowed to a trickle for the same reasons, he said, even though there are no restrictions.
But investors may be equally deterred by Syria’s shaky political future and the escalating violence. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, reported the deaths of 50 people in violence Monday, 28 of them in the southern province of Daraa, where there were unconfirmed reports of major clashes between the Syrian army and defected soldiers. The official Syrian Arab News Agency said two members of the security forces were killed in Daraa.
A trade embargo would be difficult to enforce. Syria can still count on two key neighbors with which it shares long and porous borders: Lebanon, one of only two countries that voted against the Arab League’s resolutions censuring Syria, and Iraq, which abstained.
Yet even trade with Iraq, which has been seeking to boost business ties with Syria as the region tilts against it, has fallen because of the indirect effect of sanctions, said Syria’s deputy economy minister, Khaled Mahmoud Saloutah. The two trading companies that handle most cross-border trade are based in Europe and have been forced to curtail their transactions, reducing the value of Syria’s exports to Iraq by 10 percent, he said.
“The economy is not going to collapse overnight,” Kamel said. “But it is definitely taking Syria down a risky path.”
The newly sanctioned Syrians — other than military and intelligence people — include 3 young members of the Syrian Electronic Army, Rami makhlouf’s lawyer – actually one of his good friends called me today to explain that he had not taken a case for Makhlouf in four years. Another is the head of Berri clan shabbiha in Aleppo. #13 on the list is the most interesting. He is simply named Maj General Nazih. No last name is given. So any one with the name Nazih will have to think twice about a trip to Athens.
The tiny emirate’s intentions remain murky to its neighbors and even allies — some see a Napoleon complex, others an Islamist agenda….
“Do they fill a void? Yes,” said Bassma Koudmani, a Syrian opposition leader who credited the Qataris with a key role in the Arab League’s startling decision Saturday to suspend Syria and isolate a government at the pivot of the region’s relations. “They are filling a space and a role that is not being taken up by other countries.” … American diplomatic cables in 2009, released by WikiLeaks, claim that Qatar has occasionally offered Al Jazeera’s coverage as a bargaining tool. A senior journalist there said while no order was given, the network’s reporting on Syria changed sharply in April.
“We could feel the change in atmosphere,” the journalist said.
Syria: It’s the Economy Stupid
by Armand Hurault, Arab Insurrection Analyst, Transnational Crisis Project
The Syrian economic policies over the past 25 years have underpinned the current uprising. I argue that the economy may well be the Achilles’ heel of Assad’s grip on power…..
Dr Emad Mustafa NBN 11 11 11 02
Syria’s embattled government must face the changing dynamics of the region as old alliances fade and new brokers emerge, most notably Qatar….
عشاء المعارضة السورية مع اللجنة العربية حسم الموقف من نظام الأسد
بسمة قضماني لـ «الشرق الأوسط»: الجامعة استجابت لمطالب المجلس الوطني
How Syrian Authorities can Hurt Ex-pats – (in French)
Maidhc Ó Cathail The ‘Humanitarian’ Road to Damascus: Pro-Israel Groups Outline U.S. Options to Assist Syrian Opposition -mForeign Policy Journal
عاجل : اقالة الأمين القطري المساعد لحزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي محمد سعيد بخيتان
وتنصيب وزير الدفاع السابق حسن تركماني
Arab leaders shouldn’t kill their people?
Posted By Marc Lynch
I am an Alawi from Antioch. I have many relatives in the alawite communities of Turkey including those in Mersin, Tarsus, Iskenderun (Alexandretta), Arsuz and Samandag, many of whom I do not know personally. I also visited Syria and am told I have relatives in Latakia, Homs, Damascus, and Aleppo. I am responding to Ms. Kahf and Mr. Landis’ claims regarding Alawite tribes. The truth is as far as I know, there is no such a thing as an Alawite tribe. This is just simply a reflection of modernization, educational attainment, and the prevalence of an urban lifestyle which weakened the traditional intra-communal links. I am about 50 yrs of age and never heard of “tribes”. Even close family relationships are non-existent. I have many relatives that I do not know and could not recognize even if I saw them on the street. I live in the USA and some of my relatives are scattered in Europe including Norway, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, and the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. So much for the “tribes”!
Human Rights Watch accuses Syrian government of “crimes against humanity”- The human-rights group, Human Rights Watch, released a 63-page report accusing the Syriangovernment of “crimesagainst humanity.” The report reflects the accounts of 110 victims andwitnesses who claim Syrian forces killed at least 587 civilians since the startof the uprisings in March. It also references the tortureof political prisoners and unarmed civilians, including the elderly and children.
Turkey deputy: weapons being smuggled to Syria The National
Thomas Seibert Nov 11, 2011
ISTANBUL // Many firearms from Turkey have entered Syria, and the Turkish government has stopped alleged arms-smuggling activities at a border post between the two countries, a Turkish opposition deputy said yesterday.
“You see many Turkish-made firearms in Syria,” Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, a deputy from the province of Hatay, which borders Syria, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know how they got into the country.”
A friend Writes: Friday, November 11, 2011
This is the most inept group of people to govern. The article talks about inability of anyone to pinpoint what the population figure is. One group thinks Syria’s population increases by 670,000 a year. Another thinks its 500,000 and a third believes its 440,000. As for unemployment, the government continues to think its 8% (joke?) while some think its 30%. How can you run a country with such variations? Bashar should have stopped everything in 2000 and did one thing. call the international organizations with expertise in this field and get help in finding out population levels and growth rates in every city and district and make sure each household has an income/asset bracket that qualifies it as poor/middle/wealthy. Only then, subsidies can go to who deserves it and policies can be implemented given actual population trends and where. Instead………………………enough to make want to cry http://www.syriasteps.com/?d=127&id=77652&in_main_page=1
Syria stopped paying oil companies
2011-11-11 15:28:06.43 GMT
LONDON, Nov. 11 (UPI) — Though oil production in Syria is ongoing, sources close to the government said Damascus stopped paying supermajors Royal Dutch Shell and Total. Sources familiar with the Syrian energy sector told the Financial Times that major energy companies working in Syria were getting paid by the government until a few weeks ago. Payments slowed and eventually stopped as European governments put more pressure on Damascus for its crackdown on opposition protesters. “Payments have been delayed and some are outstanding,” said one industry insider who spoke to the Financial Times on condition of anonymity. “My sense is the government has no cash.”
Syria Regime’s Likely Collapse Requires U.S. Planning: Analyst
2011-11-10, By Peter S. Green
Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) — U.S. needs to plan for all contingencies, bring about demise of Assad regime, as long-lasting conflict will become bloodier, more sectarian, spread to neighboring countries, Andrew Tabler, fellow at Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says in testimony to Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Six-point plan needed:
* Form Syria contact group for coordinated pressure on Assad
* Peel away Assad supporters, especially Christians, Sunnis
* Aid opposition to develop peaceful strategy of strikes, boycotts
* Push for international human rights monitors to enter Syria
* Prepare for militarization of conflict – no-fly zone, buffer zones to keep protesters safe from Assad military
* Push for UN Security Council action on sanctions,
potential use of force