News / Middle East

Arab League Sanctions Could Hurt Syria's Regional Standing, Economic Agenda

The Arab League's overwhelming approval of sanctions against Syria has dealt a significant blow to the regional standing of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Sunday's vote in Cairo marks the first time in the league's 66-year history that it has imposed punitive economic and political sanctions on any of its 22 members.

Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, says the move also is unprecedented because of Syria's status within the regional bloc. "This is one of the six founding members of the Arab League, and a Syria which has always championed Pan-Arabism," he says. "So to exclude Syria in effect from the Arab nation through this way I think will have probably the biggest effect on the situation."

Nineteen of the Arab League's members approved measures, including stopping transactions with the Syrian central bank, cutting off Arab government investment in Syrian projects, and imposing travel bans and asset freezes on Mr. Assad and his aides. The sanctions are designed to pressure Damascus into implementing an Arab League plan to end the government's deadly eight-month crackdown on dissent and allow observers to monitor its compliance.

Shaikh says the league's suspension of dealings with the Syrian central bank will be the most effective measure. "This will cut the money lifeline that Syrian businesses have to trade with the Arab world in particular. We have to remember that half of Syrian trade is with the Arab world, and a quarter of all of Syria's imports come from the region," he says.

Stopping Arab direct investment also is likely to hurt the Syrian government, according to the Brookings analyst. He says Mr. Assad has relied on the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to pay for projects that have helped him to liberalize Syria's largely-state run economy. "If there is now a blanket ban on those investments, I don't think Mr. Assad can point to any kind of reform, not even on the economic side. Businesses are lying idle, and contracts have dried up."

Shaikh says the impact of the travel bans and asset freezes on Syrian leaders is primarily as a message to other government officials and pro-Assad business figures that they may be next.

Arab League officials say they want to avoid causing any suffering to the wider Syrian population. In Sunday's vote, the league agreed not to penalize remittances sent by Syrian expatriates to their families. Hundreds of thousands Syrians work in Gulf nations.

Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London, says the most important effect of the sanctions may be the erosion of the Assad government's legitimacy in the eyes of some parts of the population that have been hesitant to join the opposition uprising.

He says the merchants of Damascus and Aleppo have been waiting for a clearer response to the uprising from the international community. Until Sunday, the only major sanctions facing Syria included U.S. and European Union bans on Syrian exports of oil and other products.

But, Shehadi says the impact of all sanctions on Syria is undermined by the lack of a clear international position on Mr. Assad's fate.

"The United States and Europe have expressed a lot of concern about what happens after Mr. Assad leaves, including the risk of all-out civil war," he says. "This gives Mr. Assad the impression that major powers think he is indispensable and would really like him to stay and reform."

Shehadi says the lack of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government's crackdown gives Mr. Assad another cushion. Russia and China vetoed such a resolution last month, fearing that it could encourage Western powers to stage the same kind of military intervention in Syria that they launched in Libya this year on the basis of an earlier resolution.

The Chatham House expert says another factor that may undermine the sanctions is that Arab League decisions are non-binding on its members. Lebanon joined Syria in rejecting the measures, and Iraq abstained.

Shaikh of Brookings says Lebanon opposes the sanctions because its dominant political force, the Hezbollah militant group, is part of an alliance with the Assad government and Iran.

Shaikh says the reluctance of Iraq's Shi'ite-led government to endorse the sanctions also may be due to its relationship with Shi'ite-majority Iran. He says Iraq now faces a choice of whether or not to enforce the measures.


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid