Syria has lost half of its assets as a result of international sanctions, but further measures are needed to pressure the regime to end its violent crackdown, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said today:
He said the sanctions—mainly against Syria’s oil industry, but also including a freeze on its central bank’s assets and visa restrictions on regime figures—have cost Syria half its foreign reserves, which were worth $20.6 billion in 2010, the latest World Bank data available.
He called for actions to counter the authoritarian solidarity being provided to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“Some countries are unambiguously showing support for the Syrian regime, while others are more or less directly offering alternative deals,” Juppé said. “We must respond to these maneuvers.”
Some observers believe the UN-brokered peace plan is allowing al-Assad to consolidate his position.
“He wants U.N. blessing to grind down and destroy the opposition,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “And the way this is being implemented, he’s well on his way to achieving that.”
Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East policy during the administration of President George W. Bush, said al-Assad decided to “make believe” he’s “going along with the deal” and reducing violence, while actually keeping the pressure on within the country “so the opposition knows they’re not going to be permitted to win.”
Several analysts said the United Nations is, yet again, demonstrating its lack of effectiveness.
“I don’t think the Security Council is going to prove useful,” Abrams said.
The regime has succeeded in intimidating the international community, one analyst suggests.
“The international community is frightened,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “Assad has laid down the gauntlet. He said, ‘I’m not going to leave, I’m going to burn the country down,’ and the world isn’t sure it wants to go down that road.”
The opposition is weak and divided, wracked by infighting and power struggles. The rebels are low on money and guns, and a plan by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to funnel millions of dollars a month to rebels known as the Free Syrian Army has gone nowhere. Qatar’s prime minister said Tuesday that his country is not arming the rebels. The vast majority of Syrians want the international community to intervene, according to a prominent exiled dissident with “credibility as a prescient observer of currents in his native land.”
“Nobody is calling for U.S. troops on the ground,” says Radwan Ziadeh, profiled here in Salon.com. “Syrians are ready to defend themselves and to force [al-Assad] to step down.”
“It’s the only way to stop the killing,” he says. “The call for intervention is coming from Damascus, from people on the ground.”
Ziadeh is one of a small number of liberal democrats in Arab and Muslim countries who harbor virtually no resentments towards the West in general, and the United States in particular, for its interventions in the Middle East, support for local autocracies and unconditional support for Israel. Like the Egyptian scholar Saad Ibrahim and the Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji, Ziadeh sees the West as a partner and its political institutions as a potential model.
He has credibility as a prescient observer of currents in his native land. In April of 2011, Ziadeh predicted that the Syrian people’s “determination is strong enough today, despite the increase in the number of those killed, and people will continue to participate despite the enormous arrest campaign launched by the security services.” More than a year later, Syrians continue to battle with the government despite a death toll monitors say has topped 10,000.