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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs