Posts Tagged ‘Syria Accountability Act’

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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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$45 million more for Islamist rebels

October 7, 2012

This announcement is consistent with prior Obama-Clinton payments for the pitchfork and torch bearers of the Arab Spring.  The foreign aid will supposedly provide peaceful Syrian dissidents with food, medicine, radios, and unspecified “technical support.”

Great!  What could go wrong?  Perhaps we should ask the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Clinton offers $45 million to Syrian rebels, who want more support

By Hannah Allam | McClatchy Newspapers

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday announced $45 million in additional aid for Syrian opposition activists, the latest U.S. push for influence in a civil war that’s raged beyond the international community’s control.

Clinton announced the new aid package before meeting with visiting Syrian dissidents on the margins of this week’s U.N. General Assembly, where world leaders sounded bleaker than ever about the prospects for a negotiated political resolution to the 18-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

U.S. humanitarian aid for Syria now will total more than $132 million this year, though Syrian rebels are more interested in weapons and military training than in the American promises of more “nonlethal assistance.” Of the $45 million pledged Friday, $30 million is earmarked for humanitarian assistance and $15 million for radios, training and other technical support for opposition activists.

The U.S. government has refused to directly arm or fund the so-called Free Syrian Army, a loose confederation of rebel militias, largely out of fear that the assistance would make its way to Islamist extremist groups that have joined the battle to unseat Assad.

U.S. policy is in a “really tough spot,” said Joseph Holliday, a Washington-based researcher at the Institute for the Study of War who specializes in the Syrian conflict. While the administration’s instincts to withhold direct aid from rebel fighters is understandable, he said, that strategy is backfiring.

“The irony of our fear of supplying Islamist groups is that the others who are arming the opposition – the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks – are doing just that, providing weapons and ammunition to Islamists,” Holliday said. “Our lack of giving support is actually leading to the Islamicization of the opposition.”

Despite the resignation at the U.N. now to a drawn-out, increasingly bloody conflict, the Obama administration remains focused on courting remnants of the peaceful protest movement, whom analysts say don’t enjoy the same street credibility as the armed opposition forces confronting Assad’s military.

The United States is helping to train and organize nonviolent actors in hopes they’ll take the lead in an eventual post-Assad transition, though deep ideological and other divisions have so far prevented the Syrian activists from coalescing into a government-in-waiting, such as the one Libyans formed in the months before the fall of strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Analysts describe the U.S. gamble on one segment of the opposition as part of a continued lack of U.S. strategy for Syria that’s left the administration with no real inroads to either the Assad regime or the rebel militias – the two sides to the civil war that’s already spilling beyond Syria’s borders.

Only recently, analysts say, did the government back off from the Syrian National Council, a collection of exiles and technocrats the U.S. government had tried in vain to whip into a viable transitional body.

Be aware that the aid pledge may violate U.S. law:  the Syrian Accountability Act prohibits aid to Syria without respect to the recipient unless Syria restores Lebanese sovereignty, renounces Hezbollah, and terminates its weapons of mass destruction programs.

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Western aid to Syrian rebels mounts

August 15, 2012

Syrian rebels have been funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar from the outset of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad.  The U.S. and Britain have become financially committed in recent months as well.  Note the recent developments:

The Western aid fits the pattern of taxpayer money given as foreign aid to the foot soldiers of the Arab Spring.  The first problem with the Syrian aid, as with the Egyptian and Libyan aid that preceded it, is that the cash winds up in the pockets of rebels who carry dual membership with Al Qaeda.

The second problem is that the Syria Accountability Act prohibits Americans from exporting goods to and doing business with Syria.  The law permits federal aid to Syria if and only if Syria restores Lebanese sovereignty, renounces Hezbollah, and terminates its weapons of mass destruction programs.  Those conditions haven’t been met.

Granted, the reported aid isn’t going to the Syrian regime, but the 2003 act does not make a distinction between the Syrian regime and Syrian dissidents.

Keep in mind that if you tried sending or selling supplies without a license to anybody in Syria, you would be arrested, put on trial, and convicted for export violations.  Just ask Mazen Ghashim, who was convicted for export violations in 2008 for shipping computers to Syria.