News / Middle East

Sanctions, Pressure and Syria's Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)

Multimedia

The Obama administration says Syria would be "a better place" without leader Bashar al-Assad.  Although senior U.S. officials repeatedly have called on President Assad to stop the brutal crackdown on demonstrators, President Barack Obama has not explicitly called on him to step down.  Our correspondent reports on U.S. efforts to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on the Syrian leadership.

With the Syrian government showing no signs of ending its crackdown on demonstrators, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday in Damascus.

U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland:

"He made clear, as we have publicly, repeatedly, that Syria is going to face increasing pressure if the violence doesn't end, including more economic sanctions from the U.S., and we hope, from others; that empty rhetoric isn't going to suffice," said Nuland.

Middle East political analyst Andrew Tabler of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy says energy sanctions are key.

"Oil exports from Syria account for about between one-quarter and one-third of revenue, okay?  So unlike Saddam Hussein's Iraq, where the lion's share of state revenues came from oil proceeds, in Syria, it's only for one-quarter or one-third," said Tabler. "So it will cripple the regime, get it to run down its reserves and borrow more money from the bourgeoisie.  But it won't decimate the society."

Tabler says international pressure is effective, highlighting Syria's decision to withdraw its forces from Lebanon in 2005.    

"The Syrian regime does move in the face of concerted, multilateral pressure," he said. "It doesn't happen very often, but a stopped clock is right twice a day, right?  [It can work again.]"

Some analysts want to see the United States apply pressure on those who are not part of the Syrian government.  Exiled opposition member Ausama Monajed heads the Strategic Research & Communication Center in London:

"A third message should be articulated and hammered on to the Sunni business elite," said Monajed. "There is huge, huge potential for business in Syria afterward [after Bashar al-Assad and his government are out of office].  You need to play a role in the development and economic development of Syria afterward, so disassociate yourselves from the regime, and there is a future for you."

The head of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, Radwan Ziadeh, says it is important for U.S. President Barack Obama to explicitly call on Bashar al-Assad to step down.

"Seeing that will encourage also more Arabic countries and more European countries to do the same, and this is why you have such kind of international pressure," said Ziadeh. "It will encourage more army, especially more Alawite senior army officers, to defect."

Assad's family is Alawite, a religious minority in Syria.

Theodore Kattouf, who served as U.S. ambassador to Syria during the Clinton administration, says President Assad will not heed calls to step down.  He says members of the Assad family are fighting for their political lives and their livelihoods.

"I'm sure Bashar watched a former ally of the United States, [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak, on a hospital bed in a cage in a courtroom," said Kattouf. "And if his spine needed any steeling [his will to remain in office needed strengthening], I'm sure that that helped to do it."

Kattouf says there are no magic spells that will cause the Assad government to collapse.  

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid