US President Barack Obama 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration slapped sanctions on Syria Friday in
response to its bloody crackdown on civilian protesters – its boldest action
since anti-regime demonstrations erupted weeks ago.
The measures target
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother and cousin, who head security services
involved in the attacks on protesters – as well as the Iranian Revolutionary
Guards Corps, which the US accuses of helping suppress the protests.
Syria PM: Gov't to propose political, economic reforms
letter to Congress explaining the new sanctions, US President Barack Obama
referred to the “repression of the Syrian people,” and highlighted the use of
torture and arbitrary arrest of protesters.
“We call on President Assad
to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people,” White House
spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement released after the sanctions were
“We have all grown increasingly alarmed by the violence
unleashed against the Syrian people,” said John Kerry, chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, in welcoming the decision. “We need to increase the
political and economic pressure so President Assad understands that he must end
the violence and embrace reforms.”
He continued, “The administration’s
imposition of tough economic sanctions against the perpetrators of these grave
human-rights abuses is appropriate.
It puts Syria’s leaders on notice
that decisions to kill unarmed civilians have consequences.”
US already has sanctions against Syria, the administration hopes other countries
will follow its lead to give the move more power.
Despite the limits of
US financial leverage on Damascus, administration critics have charged that the
White House has done too little to support the Syrian protesters – particularly
given the clear American calls for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi to go, the latter of which was followed up by
Senior State Department official Jacob Sullivan, however, ruled
out military action by the US against Syria at this point, in a press
The decision to ramp up sanctions was embraced Friday by the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which issued a statement praising the
administration for “bringing international attention to the brutal actions
perpetrated by the Syrian regime against its own people.”