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Activist: Exhaust sanctions before bombing Syria

September 2, 2013

Human rights advocate and former State Department official Sonni Efron has written an opinion piece for Reuters (h/t to Sal) arguing for sanctions against banks that do business with the central bank of Syria, which would include at least three Russian banks, rather than conducting a military strike against Damascus.

Syria has been the subject of U.S., U.K., EU, and UN sanctions for years, but the embargo is porous and uneven.  Stricter financial penalties for banks and corporations that do business with Syria could tighten the noose.

However, one major problem with sanctions is that they tend to harm average citizens more than regime elites.  Another problem is that sanctions are ineffective at disarming rogue regimes, and the existing sanctions against Syria didn’t do anything to prevent the butcher Assad from using chemical weapons now.  Such a response could also give Iran the impression that, if Iran goes nuclear, the U.S. would respond by simply tweaking the severity of economic sanctions.

But those who believe that force should only be used as a last resort should give consideration to proposals like this.  Another economic option on the table would be to pass preemptive contract sanctions, which would limit the enforceability of contracts entered by the Assad government on future governments of Syria.

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