WH to hit Syria, Assad with sanctions over protest massacres

posted at 1:34 pm on May 18, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

It took Barack Obama eight days to demand Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in Egypt despite the US ally having not attacked protestors in Cairo.  It took him 16 days to demand Moammar Gaddafi’s resignation in advance of the Libyan dictator’s planned assaults on civilian populations.  It took 55 days and an estimated 850 deaths to get Obama to slap sanctions on Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad, and he’s still not quite ready to demand Assad’s resignation:

The Obama administration will slap sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses over their brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, for the first time personally penalizing the Syrian leader for actions of his security forces, officials said.

The officials said the Treasury Department will announce the sanctions on Wednesday, a day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the uprisings throughout the Arab world with prominent mentions of Syria. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement of the sanctions.

The Obama administration had pinned hopes on Assad, seen until recent months as a pragmatist and potential reformer who could buck Iranian influence and help broker an eventual Arab peace deal with Israel. Obama returned an American ambassador to Damascus for the first time in years.

Assad’s increasingly brutal crackdown left U.S. officials little choice but to abandon the effort to woo Assad, and to stop exempting him from the same sort of sanctions already applied to Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

I guess the lesson here is that the Obama administration will give dictators more slack if they haven’t concluded peace treaties with Israel than if they have, and have honored the peace for 30 years.  Objectively speaking, both Mubarak and Assad were dictators before the eruption of the Arab Spring, but Mubarak at least tried to keep a lid on radical Islamist terrorism and managed to get along grudgingly with the Israelis.  Syria has supported Hamas and Hezbollah as both make open war against Israel, not to mention hijacking Lebanon and turning it into a vassal state.

Now, after two months, the Obama administration has finally realized that Assad is a brutal dictator and not a reformer.  This is what they call “smart power.”

The White House seems to be taking care not to explicitly call for Assad’s ouster.  While that’s wildly inconsistent with Obama’s position on Mubarak and Gaddafi, it’s probably a wiser approach.  We still don’t know what we’re going to get from regime change in Egypt, and what kind of regime will follow in Libya if regime change occurs, but there are bad omens in both countries.  In Syria, it will be tough to do worse than the Iranian puppet Assad, but not impossible.


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Sure, those guys will be worried over there. Why not air drop one stern letter instead?

Sir Napsalot on May 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM

No…

NO…

NOOOOO…

Not…

…sanctions!

catmman on May 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Why didn’t they try sanctions on Libya first?

catmman on May 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Because sanctions worked so well against Cuba.

John Deaux on May 18, 2011 at 1:39 PM

catmman on May 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM

We will know WH getting serious when they roll out the comfy chair.

Sir Napsalot on May 18, 2011 at 1:39 PM

The White House seems to be taking care not to explicitly call for Assad’s ouster.

Why? That worked so well with regards to Khaddafi. Oh wait…

ted c on May 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

“Don’t make me have to stop this car!”

Akzed on May 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

next up! Arrest warrants.

Steady yourself, Assad, steady yourself.
/#qaddafi

ted c on May 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

I’m sure Assad is appalled.

Not.

CantCureStupid on May 18, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Syria will be denied access to free satellite TV transmissions

jake-the-goose on May 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Breaking news on the lsm, indicating dear leader is all that plus a bag of chips

cmsinaz on May 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Because sanctions worked so well against Cuba.

John Deaux on May 18, 2011 at 1:39 PM

The sanctions have reduced Cuba to a powerless shell, especially now that the USSR isn’t funding them.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Look, GWB stood up to ME dictators and Qaddafi ultimately cried uncle on his WMD program. Nowadays, Qaddafi sense that Obama isn’t anywhere near the threat that Gdub was and he’s making hay over it.

ted c on May 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM

This is like spraying OFF insect repellant on a fire ant hill.

All it does is piss off the ants.

pilamaye on May 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Lol akzed

:)

cmsinaz on May 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM

This is like spraying OFF insect repellant on a fire ant hill.

All it does is piss off the ants.

pilamaye on May 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Not unless you use it with a lighter…hehehe.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 1:52 PM

The sanctions have reduced Cuba to a powerless shell, especially now that the USSR isn’t funding them.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM

A powerless shell where the people suffer while the ruling class enjoys luxury paid for by tourist dollars.

Exactly how have the sanctions hurt the rulers?

John Deaux on May 18, 2011 at 1:53 PM

days, not weeks…

equanimous on May 18, 2011 at 1:54 PM

Gutsy call.

JammieWearingFool on May 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM

Why didn’t they try sanctions on Libya first?

catmman on May 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM

And Iran, and North Korea, and

Because sanctions worked so well against Cuba.

John Deaux on May 18, 2011 at 1:39 PM

davidk on May 18, 2011 at 1:57 PM

The White House seems to be taking care not to explicitly call for Assad’s ouster. While that’s wildly inconsistent with Obama’s position on Mubarak and Gaddafi, it’s probably a wiser approach.

So you wrote a long post describing how inconsistent Obama was being, and then finally admit that it’s probably wise. So you’re saying there are different details in these different situations that require different approaches?

tneloms on May 18, 2011 at 1:57 PM

This is all about his ME speech tomorrow so that he can look like he is actually doing something..nothing more

cmsinaz on May 18, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Because sanctions worked so well against Cuba.

John Deaux on May 18, 2011 at 1:39 PM

The sanctions have reduced Cuba to a powerless shell, especially now that the USSR isn’t funding them.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Not really.

Not defending Cuba here, but only 1% of their population is in poverty. And their GDP, while it did drop for several years after Russia pulled out, has since recovered much of the losses after 1993. Tourism has become a major source of revenue as well, resulting in an enlarged service industry.

Face it, sanctions don’t work. Didn’t work against Fidel, didn’t work against Saddam Hussein, won’t work now.

Del Dolemonte on May 18, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Face it, sanctions don’t work. Didn’t work against Fidel, didn’t work against Saddam Hussein, won’t work now.

Del Dolemonte on May 18, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Because the sanctioning nations always cheat and there are plenty who don’t join. The only one I can remember having major impact was on South Africa.

a capella on May 18, 2011 at 2:07 PM

So you wrote a long post describing how inconsistent Obama was being, and then finally admit that it’s probably wise. So you’re saying there are different details in these different situations that require different approaches?

tneloms on May 18, 2011 at 1:57 PM

No, I wrote a post that tweaks Obama for his inconsistent approach and for demanding regime change when (a) the US had good reason for having Mubarak in power, and (b) the US had no idea what would follow from the ouster of Mubarak — and for that matter, Gaddafi. They should have been consistent, and where inconsistency was required, it should have favored our ally, not disfavored him entirely.

Ed Morrissey on May 18, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Yet the Leftoids insisted on sanctions on South Africa!

Having taken this long to impose this measure, you can be sure that Assad and company have shifted their cash to accounts beyond anyone’s reach.

The reason Syria is not being threatened like Libya was is because it is Iran’s staunch ally – and O’Bambi does not want to “offend” the Iranians. That’s why they were never threatened when they had their internal protests.

He wants the Iranians to be able to wield weapons against Israel – it’s that simple!

honsy on May 18, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Because the sanctioning nations always cheat and there are plenty who don’t join. The only one I can remember having major impact was on South Africa.

a capella on May 18, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Which reminds me – I forgot to clarify that the US has made an exception for Cuba in tourism, and they’re surviving quite well by leaching off the US dollars coming in that way.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Which reminds me – I forgot to clarify that the US has made an exception for Cuba in tourism, and they’re surviving quite well by leaching off the US dollars coming in that way.

Uncle Sams Nephew

Don’t forget the Leftoid Canadians that vacation in Cuba to demonstrate their support for that regime!

honsy on May 18, 2011 at 2:13 PM

A strongly worded demarche will surely win the day!

And then, back in the real world…

ajacksonian on May 18, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Don’t forget the Leftoid Canadians that vacation in Cuba to demonstrate their support for that regime!

honsy on May 18, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Completely forgot about that one as well! Thank you for the reminder!

Geez…it’s been years since I read about that.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Sanctions will be painstakingly scribbed on the head of a 5.56 round.

trs on May 18, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Obama should recall our ambassador also as at least a symbolic gesture that we disapprove.

By the way, nobody mentions it much, but obama’s “engagement” strategy with Iran and Syria has been an utter failure. Has any President’s main foreign policy strategy ever been so quickly and thoroughly discredited?

JohnInCA on May 18, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Sounds like a bow and a strongly worded letter are in the offing…..

search4truth on May 18, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Which reminds me – I forgot to clarify that the US has made an exception for Cuba in tourism, and they’re surviving quite well by leaching off the US dollars coming in that way.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM

You need to clarify some more-the US will only allow citizens to travel there with a government license, unless they travel to Cuba via another country first. And once you get there, you can’t spend any money!

Del Dolemonte on May 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

A strongly worded demarche will surely win the day!

And then, back in the real world…

ajacksonian on May 18, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Actually, Iran is who needs a demarche and a date.

NaCly dog on May 18, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Just wait until Big O gives his “Purple Prose of Cairo” speech on Thursday, replete with a cash bonanza of aid from our printing presses.

onlineanalyst on May 18, 2011 at 6:01 PM

honsy on May 18, 2011 at 2:09 PM

You have summed the issue up in a nutshell. Notice that it was Syria (probably backed by Iran) that was most aggressive during Intifada III the other day.

onlineanalyst on May 18, 2011 at 6:09 PM

honsy on May 18, 2011 at 2:09 PM

You have summed the issue up in a nutshell. Notice that it was Syria (probably backed by Iran) that was most aggressive during Intifada III the other day.

onlineanalyst on May 18, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Yeah, we’ll break them with sanctions like we did Iran.

slickwillie2001 on May 18, 2011 at 6:13 PM