Tough words, tighter sanctions for Syria, but no end to state-led violence
At least 50 more Syrians were killed Thursday in state-ordered violence. Deaths surpass 2,000 since political protests broke out in Syria five months ago, says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
International pressure on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ratcheted up Thursday, a day after the United Nations Security Council condemned the regime for violent repression of opposition demonstrations.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But as Russia hardened its stance toward President Assad and as the European Union approved new sanctions targeting Syrian officials, the Assad regime answered by intensifying its assault in the opposition center of Hama, sending in more tanks and snipers.
At least 50 more Syrians were killed Thursday in state-ordered violence. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that the regime is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths during five months of protests, and she repeated a previous assertion that Mr. Assad has lost all legitimacy.
RECOMMENDED: Seven reasons Syrian opposition hasn't toppled Assad
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose country was slow to accept the idea of Security Council action on Syria, said Thursday that Assad faces a “sad fate” if he does not quickly implement political reforms and open up to the opposition.
Mr. Medvedev said the Russian position on Syria is evolving as events unfold inside the country, piquing the interest of Western capitals that have sought Russian support for months for international action against Assad.
The European Union (EU) approved new sanctions but stopped short of targeting Syria’s banks and small but financially crucial oil and gas industry.
Yet hitting Syria’s oil and gas income may be one of two crucial steps for influencing the Assad regime and its actions, some Syria experts say. The other will be getting a mostly quiet Arab community to confront Assad over his brutal repression.
“The Assad regime is quite reliant on oil exports,” says Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “Why not an embargo on Syrian oil exports?” Oil and gas make up about one-third of Syria’s export revenues.
Four European countries – France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands -- purchase the bulk of Syria’s oil exports, notes Mr. Abrams. The EU’s decision to put off for now any sanctions on oil and gas was “a lost opportunity,” he adds.
Knowing how important the oil revenues are to Assad, the Europeans “may have been afraid of going off a cliff” in the sense of precipitating Assad’s downfall, he says.
Another source of untapped pressure on Assad would be Syria’s Arab neighbors. In this area, the United States could be effective in rallying support for measures against Assad, say some diplomatic analysts.