Syria further isolated after latest killings

Syrians residing abroad take part in a European demonstration against the Syrian regime, calling for democracy and an end to bloodshed in Syria, on May 19, 2012, in Geneva.

Kai Ryssdal: Over the weekend, more than a hundred people -- including dozens of children -- were killed in the Syrian town of Houla. Witnesses blame militias backed by the government of President Bashir al-Assad.

The response today was what could be diplomatic hardball. Several countries -- including the U.S. and Britain -- have given Syrian diplomats seven days to get out. Diplomacy aside, Syrian sanctions have already been imposed without measurable results.

From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura has more.


David Gura: Syria has faced U.S. sanctions for a long time now -- since the 1990s. So, when this latest uprising began, with the Arab Spring...

Bryan Early: It really had little additional leverage that it could bring to bear against the Syrian government through additional sanctions.

Bryan Early teaches political science at the University at Albany, and he says the U.S. and the European Union have relied on what are called “smart sanctions.”

Early: Those are efforts to use economic sanctions more as scalpels instead of sledgehammers.

Targeting individuals, cutting off their access to assets. We’ve also seen some new, broader sanctions. Last year, the E.U. banned Syrian oil imports.

Joshua Landis directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Joshua Landis: The sanctions have been devastating for the Syrian economy.

It’s gotten harder to get wheat, and Landis says cooking gas has gotten expensive.

Landis: The point of this is to try to starve the country while you feed the opposition.

With money -- and with weapons. So far, Syria has faced sanctions from the U.S., and from the EU and the Arab League, but not from the United Nations. And Bryan Early doesn’t expect that to change.

Early: The joint reservations of both Russia and China, concerning sanctions, make it unlikely that there will be any robust, international sanctioning effort coming out of the U.N. Security Council any time soon.

Both those countries have been trading partners with Syria, and the Assad regime has relied on Russia, in particular, for weapons.

In Washington, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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