US looks at intensifying sanctions against Syria

Clinton: We have nothing invested in the continuation of a regime that must kill, imprison and torture its own citizens to maintain power.

Clinton Blasts Gadaffi 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Clinton Blasts Gadaffi 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was readying additional sanctions against Syria and pushed the UN Security Council to take action following a meeting with Syrian dissidents Tuesday.
“We are exploring broader sanctions that will isolate the Assad regime politically and deny it revenue with which to sustain its brutality,” Clinton said of the new targeted sanctions under consideration.
She added that the “strong action by the Security Council on the targeting of innocent civilians in Syria is long overdue,” and chastised those countries that have blocked an effort calling on President Bashar Assad to stop the slaughter of his own citizens.
Though Clinton didn’t name any countries, Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have been seen to be stymieing movement at the UN. Signs of a limited breakthrough emerged Wednesday afternoon.
Clinton told the small group of American-based activists she received that “the United States will continue to support the Syrian people in their efforts to begin a peaceful and orderly transition to democracy in Syria and to have their aspirations realized. We have nothing invested in the continuation of a regime that must kill, imprison and torture its own citizens to maintain power.”
Many have criticized the Obama administration for not working more aggressively to support the opposition and try to dislodge Assad from power.
US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, testifying before Congress Tuesday, said that the end of the Assad regime was in sight, but that Syrians themselves had to take the necessary actions for a new reality.
“The crisis in Syria is not about the United States directly. It does offer us opportunities to promote respect for our principles and ideals. It offers us opportunities eventually to reinforce stability and peace in the Middle East,” he said in his prepared testimony.
“But Syrians must resolve the crisis. The manner in which it is resolved must be a Syrian one.”
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His words were not strong enough for Elliott Abrams, the senior National Security Council adviser on the Middle East in the George W. Bush White House.
Abrams prepared a list of questions to be asked of Ford, who is currently on a recess appointment and faces a repeat of the confirmation process.
Referring to US President Barack Obama’s defense of NATO intervention in Libya by warning of the massacre of thousands that seemed imminent, Abrams wrote: “In Syria we are seeing such massacres, now at about 2,000 people and climbing very fast. What can the United States do to prevent Assad from provoking sectarian violence?” US Senators eager to answer that question with more US action on Tuesday proposed a new round of sanctions directed at Syria’s energy industry and those who invest in it, a broader proposal than the steps taken to date by the administration.
A bi-partisan trio of Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) announced the move as the Senate was finishing up for the summer recess that began after the debt ceiling vote Tuesday morning.
“The pre-Ramadan assault by Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian people demands a strong and immediate response by the US and our allies,” Lieberman said.
“The legislation we are introducing today will target the Syrian regime’s economic dependence on the energy sector – dramatically ratcheting up pressure against the dictatorship in Damascus and in support of a democratic transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people.”
The bill would also seek to end the purchase of Syrian oil by foreign companies and the sale of gasoline to the country by blocking the access of companies that do so to the American economy.
Over a quarter of the Syrian regime’s revenue comes from the sale of oil, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
FDD Executive Director Mark Dubowitz assessed that sanctions on Syria targeted at this sector would also create hardship for Iran, because Tehran is so concerned about the fate of its closest Arab ally that it has promised Assad nearly $6 billion in loans and 290,000 barrels of oil a day.
“Syrian energy sanctions could both tighten the screws on Assad and cost Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei more of the resources he needs to withstand Western pressure on his battered regime,” Dubowitz said in welcoming the proposed legislation.