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How economic sanctions affect Syria

Russia and China cast a veto as members vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Syria July 19, 2012 at the United Nations in New York.

Jeremy Hobson: At the United Nations today, the Security Council is expected to vote today on economic sanctions against Syria. The UN is trying to bring an end to the 16 month conflict between the government of Bashar Al-Assad and rebel forces. But will more economic sanctions work?

Here's Marketplace's Scott Tong.


Scott Tong: The UN resolution would have threatened to freeze assets of top Syrian officials, and restricted travel. Russia, one of the veto countries, has port interests in Syria. Still, many other sanctions remain, including asset freezes by Washington, Britain and Syria. The intended effect is walls closing in.

Iain Willis at the corporate intelligence firm Alaco traces Mideast money flows.

Ian Willis: It’s about limiting the options, limiting the room for maneuver for the regime. So they find it much more difficult to envisage a future life of wealth and luxury.

For the inner circle, the point is to go after people’s treasure and question their loyalty to the Assad regime.

Here’s Nadim Shehadi of the London think tank Chatham House.

Nadim Shehadi: It would influence people’s decisions, on whether to stick around and support the regime, or maybe defect.

What sanctions may not do is shut down Syria’s broader economy. Despite a European oil embargo, Damascus still has friendly trading partners.

Paul Salem is with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

Paul Salem: They have not choked off the Syrian economy or the Syrian regime. They have not been utterly decisive in that sense.

He sees sanctions as a slow-motion squeeze, in a fast-moving conflict.

In Washington I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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