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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
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 Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid