Syria to Pursue Crackdown Undeterred by Sanctions
Seven weeks of protests in Syria. Seven weeks of bloody repression.
International criticism has mounted. The United States has tightened sanctions. The European Union may impose its own.
But President Bashar al-Assad is battling to maintain his family’s four-decade-old grip on power and will not let outside pressures deflect him from crushing Syrian demonstrators demanding freedom, like so many others across the Arab world.
“U.S. and EU sanctions have more a psychological effect than a tangible one,” said Murhaf Jouejati, Professor of Middle East Studies at George Washington University.
Senior Syrian officials whose assets have been frozen under new U.S. sanctions have none in the United States, and the EU, considering an arms embargo, does not sell weapons to Syria, he said, adding that travel bans have a bit more of a bite.
“Sanctions alone will not deter Syrian leaders from using deadly force against protesters as they feel the survival of the regime is at stake. The U.S. and the EU will have to do better if they want to rein in the Assad regime,” Jouejati said.
Failing U.N. action, he suggested extra measures such as a total freeze on the assets of Assad and his allies, a travel ban on senior Syrian officials, the withdrawal of ambassadors and reduced diplomatic relations. Syria should also be barred from seeking a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
At least 560 civilians have been killed in the protests that began on March 18, rights groups say. Syrian authorities put the death toll at 148, including 78 members of the security forces.
Assad, condemned by Western leaders for his handling of the unrest, has also received scoldings from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who had forged strong trade and political ties with its neighbor.
The Turkish leader has urged Assad to reform before it is too late and warned him against “another Hama” — referring to the Syrian city where Assad’s father crushed an armed Islamist revolt in 1982, killing many thousands of civilians.