U.S. Faces a Challenge in Trying to Punish Syria

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The White House said on Monday that it was exploring new sanctions against Syria — mostly involving the assets of top officials around President Bashar al-Assad — but officials acknowledged that the country was already under so many sanctions that the United States held little leverage.

“We’re talking about a country whose economy is about the size of Pittsburgh’s,” said one administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the continuing debate within the administration about the next steps. “There are things you can do to amp up the volume” of sanctions, the official said, “but the financial impact is slim.”

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign Relations* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastSyria

Posted April 26, 2011 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. carl wrote:

The NATO powers currently engaged in Libya should immediately get the UNSC to pass a resolution declaring a “No-Fly Zone for the protection of civilians” in Syria.  Then they must deploy additional air assets to the region and (after they shoot down Syrian aircraft) begin bombing tanks, communications towers, and any compound in which Assad is thought to be hiding.  After all, a civilian is a civilian, and being the cop of the world is tough but someone has to do it and ...

Oh, wait.  Syria is a long way away from Europe and doesn’t have any significant oil reserves. 

Never mind.


April 26, 9:22 am | [comment link]
2. David Keller wrote:

If I were President, I’d announce I am going to freeze Syrian assets in the US, especially those of the top leaders, in a week or two thus giving the leaders of Syria the time to move all their assets to Swiss bank accounts before the sanctions take effect.  But, really, nobody else in the whole world could be as stupid as me, could they?

April 26, 9:36 am | [comment link]
3. Caedmon wrote:

Bomb Syria!  No, wait:  bomb everyone!

April 26, 9:47 am | [comment link]
4. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

Basher is closely aligned with the Maronite and Orthodox Christians in Syria.  The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate is in Damascus.  The Muslim Brotherhood is not tolerated.  Basher’s Alawite sect is probably the most cordial to Western norms in all of Islam.

So I’m not surprised the Obama administration wants to see him gone.

April 26, 2:59 pm | [comment link]
5. Alta Californian wrote:

#4, rubbish. Why you could make the same claim about Saddam Hussein, who did more to protect Iraqi Christians than coalition forces have ever done.  But you won’t find anyone saying George W. Bush secretly wanted to destroy Christianity in the Middle East.  Perhaps the question we should be asking is how we can support our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, who have found it so necessary to align themselves with repressive dictators in order to feel safe from violent Islamism.

April 26, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
6. Caedmon wrote:

“Perhaps the question we should be asking is how we can support our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, who have found it so necessary to align themselves with repressive dictators in order to feel safe from violent Islamism.”

And the answer would be, “nothing.”  There is nothing we can do to protect Christians in the Middle East other than to keep strong men in power.  That is the situtation.  It is, accordingly, why it’s the policy of Bush, the neocons and now Obama which is the authentic “rubbish.”  Anti-Gnostic has it right.

April 26, 8:32 pm | [comment link]
7. MichaelA wrote:

Carl at #1 sums up well the reasons why overt intervention probably isn’t a good idea in Syria.

But if you can’t intervene directly, then do it indirectly. There are plenty of ways to skin a cat…

April 26, 8:34 pm | [comment link]
8. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

Alta Californian,

If you want to support Syrian Christians and the Antiochian Patriarchate, don’t bomb their country and don’t impose sanctions on them.  Christians and Muslims live together peacefully there.  One reason they are able to do this is because of the Basher government’s active suppression of Islamic militancy.  Presumably you are aware that the CIA used Syria for the detention and interrogation of al Qaida suspects.

April 26, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
10. Alta Californian wrote:

I see my comment has been misconstrued.  I will clarify that I was not talking about military intervention. What I find specifically to be rubbish is Anti-Gnostic’s insinuation that Obama’s motivation in regards to Syria is driven by some sort of antipathy to the Orthodox community there, as if he wants all Middle Eastern Christians to die at the hands of Islamic extremists.  I see no basis for such a suggestion.  If you meant something other than this, Anti-Gnostic, I’d be very happy to hear it.

As to supporting those Christians, Caedmon, what makes you think I meant military intervention?  Perhaps I meant prayer support, moral support, perhaps relocation assistance.  But I guess “nothing” means we shouldn’t give them even the most basic Christian prayer support.  I don’t suppose that’s what you mean is it?

And those are actually good comments from Buchanan.  At least he has the guts to acknowledge that Bashar is a tyrant in league with Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, who is slaughtering his own people.  It’s a devil’s bargain either way.  The strongman argument is compelling, it’s one of the reasons I opposed the Iraq War.  But I do think it is legitimate to question the morality of supporting brutal dictatorships just because they happen to support our interests from time to time.  There may be no solution but a frank embrace of realpolitik, but the question should still be asked.

April 26, 10:41 pm | [comment link]
11. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

Yes Alta.  I’m sure that’s exactly what you meant and what Caedmon means.  He doesn’t want you even to pray for +Ignatius.

Christians are doing fine in Syria, much as non-bolsheviks did fine in Chile.  Syria is a US ally against al Qaida and Bashar is a popular figure and member of Islam’s most liberal sect, surrounded by some deeply corrupt and brutal people.  The world is more complicated than Americans will ever be capable of comprehending.

Obama has shown mostly contempt for America and, with his obsequious bows to the Saudi head of state and his father’s Muslim faith, I would not be surprised if those are his true loyalties.

April 26, 11:16 pm | [comment link]
12. Caedmon wrote:

11.  Correct.  When I said “nothing” I clearly included prayer.

April 28, 1:16 am | [comment link]
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