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Syrian opposition says new sanctions lack clout

Scott Tong Aug 4, 2011

Syrian opposition says new sanctions lack clout

Scott Tong Aug 4, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: The United Nations has taken its first real action against the Syrian government. Five months after protests started there, yesterday the U.N. condemned the government in Damascus and announced economic sanctions. Opposition leaders say that’s not enough and want the international community to do more to cut off Syria’s sizable oil revenues.

From Washington, Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.

Scott Tong: Ausama Monajed is a leading Syrian dissident in London. His take on yesterday’s U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of the Assad regime:

Ausama Monajed: Too little too late. We are watching another Rwanda, another Darfur, another Serbia in front of our eyes.

Monajed says cutting off Syrian oil exports would hurt the government.

Monajed: That generates between $7 million to $8 million a day for them. And that money is being used to buy bullets and kill protesters.

Here in the U.S., 67 senators support energy sanctions; so does the ambassador to Syria. But Americans don’t buy Syrian oil — Europeans do, and they’re talking less tough. Some attribute that to Arab Spring fatigue — political and economic. Others argue oil embargoes don’t work.

Economist Robin Mills in Dubai remembers the case of Iraq.

Robin Mills: Those sanctions were generally considered to be a disaster. Millions of children died of poverty and disease. They were manipulated by the regime, so they just made Saddam Hussein’s regime stronger. That is really an example of what should be avoided in Syria.

He says the details of sanctions do matter, and he admits short-term pressure could work with Syria.

Robert Danin at the Council on Foreign Relations says the key is to send an instant message to Syria’s business elite.

Robert Danin: The goal is political. The goal is to drive a wedge between the regime and its supporters.

The U.N. Security Council’s next meeting on Syria is scheduled for next week.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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