Can Sanctions Bring Down Assad? Part II


Even the Syrian opposition doesn't think sanctions will bring down Assad

An article in the Globe and Mail  details how easily Syria will be able to find new buyers to replace the EU in november when the new EU sanctions prohibiting oil and gas transactions with Syria come into effect. China and India will likely be able to absorb the roughly 150,000 barrels of oil a day that are currently sent to Europe:

Oil-hungry China and India could undermine efforts by the European Union to punish Syria for its deadly response to activists trying to overthrow the government.

The EU on Friday banned oil imports from Syria, shutting down the vast majority of that country’s export market. The taps won’t be turned off, however, until the middle of November. Even if this market closes, Syria will have other options that could leave the repressive government relatively unscathed.

China, as well as India, could absorb the roughly 150,000 barrels of oil a day that Syria currently directs toward the EU. Oil exports make up about 25 per cent of Syria’s revenue, and at today’s oil prices, the shipments are worth about $4-billion a year, according to Ayham Kamel, an expert on the Middle East at Eurasia Group, a global research firm.

“Financially, it won’t have a big impact [on Syria],” he said of the sanctions. “They can sell the oil elsewhere.”

A couple of days ago I wrote about how the sanctions levied on the Assad regime would not bring down the government, writing “the sanctions on Syria are not universal, meaning that the Assad regime will be able to ‘to tap international trade and capital markets and find alternative suppliers of goods and capital.’” Well apparently even Emadeddin al Rashid of the opposition National Salvation Congress agrees with me. In the same Globe and Mail article, al Rashid is quoted as saying:

The sanctions will gain popular approval because the revenues from oil do not go to the state coffers but are at the disposal of the Assad family… It will no doubt hurt, and is direct pressure on the regime, as it affects their personal finances.

It will however be an excuse to supply Syria with Iraqi and Iranian oil as a form of economic aid to prop up the regime. Oil sanctions are among several issues that put pressure on the regime . . . but alone it will not tip the balance against the regime as Syria has had long experience in dealing with sanctions.

In other words, the EU oil sanctions are ineffective and, even if they were effective, they would not be enough to bring down the regime. It will be interesting to see what the reaction of western politicians will be when it becomes clear that the strategy of sanctions is ineffective. Will there be a stronger push for intervention or perhaps western governments will change paths and offer more carrots, instead of sticks, for immediate reform. In any event, it does not seem as though Assad is going anywhere soon.

Photo from MidEast Post


3 thoughts on “Can Sanctions Bring Down Assad? Part II

  1. Sanctions have never been an effective diplomatic measure. Just look at Iran or North Korea. They’ve been under sanctions for years. I think it’s one step above sending them a strongly worded letter.

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