West asserting program in SyriaBy Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Sep 15, 2011 - 9:16:58 AM
Sticking to a consistent strategy with Syria, the United States, Britain and France have cranked up efforts against another Arab nation and called for its head of state to step down.
The play book opened with President Barack Obama signing an Executive Order condemning the embattled President Assad and putting severe economic sanctions and political isolation on Syria. The European Union (EU) and several Arab nations have joined the U.S. demand that Mr. Assad “must go,” echoing the new mantra for regime change. The United Nations added to the fray by pushing for a recommendation to indict Syria's leaders at the International Criminal Court for human rights violations over the harsh crack down on anti-government protestors in the last several months. Furthermore invasion on Syrian soil is now being debated as a real possibility.
In a statement, President Obama accused President Assad of being an obstruction in the way of a “transition to democracy,” saying it's time for Mr. Assad to “get out of the way.”
“My administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people,” said President Obama.
The executive order implements an immediate freeze on all assets belonging to the Syrian government subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits American citizens from engaging in any transactions involving the country. According to the U.S. State Department, the actions strike oil, the regime's life blood and main revenue source for the small country. The EU sanctions are more significant because 94 percent of Syrian oil exports go to European capitals.
U.S. sanctions is a gamble
In an August 18 National Journal article, writer Yochi Dreazen wrote that America has “limited leverage” over the Assad government and is gambling on sanctions, contrasting Syria to Libya as an example of its difficulty. Sanctions forcing Mr. Assad out “may be wishful thinking,” he wrote.
Bashar Al-Assad, different from Muammar Gadhafi, never kept much money in U.S banks. The Treasury Department froze $30 billion of Libyan funds earlier this year after the Obama administration declared Col. Gadhafi lost legitimacy. In comparison, U.S. officials located only a few hundred million dollars connected to President Assad, according to reports.
Dismissing the calls for President Assad to resign, Reem Haddad, Syrian information ministry director of external relationscriticizedthe U.S. and other governments for prying in Syrian affairs.
“It is strange that instead of offering (Damascus) a helping hand to implement its program of reforms, the West and Obama are seeking to stoke more violence in Syria,” Mr. Haddad told the AFPnews agency.
A dilemma for U.S. meddling
Obama administration critics agree that it appears the U.S. is setting the stage for another rendezvous in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. The leader “must go” stance of the U.S. and the EU, alongside UN legal threats was the same posture used against leader Muammar Gadhafi days ahead of NATO's invasion into Libya masquerading as protecting civilians. However some analysts say demanding Mr. Assad abdicate his presidency will prove counterproductive and may actually work in his favor.
“In Syrian eyes, he will be seen as the leader that defies the ‘Great Satan,' ” predicts Council of Foreign Relations analyst Ed Husain. “Worse, a weak and divided Syrian opposition movement will now be presented as ‘American stooges,'” opined Mr. Husain in a CFR.org article.
According to analyst Andrew Tabler the Syrian opposition has been very careful to keep a low profile until the uprisings. “So you have a protest, you have traditional opposition leaders in the country, then you have the protesters themselves on the ground who are being driven by local leaders, as well as Internet activists, and what they call local coordinating committees,” said Mr. Tabler to CFR.ORG.
The violence in Syria intensified since the spate of popular revolts against Arab governments that began earlier this year. According to reports, thousands of Syrians have died in the turmoil and observers are q--uestioning the weight of Western claims against Al-Assad's legitimacy.
The Conspiracy of Outside Interests
President Al-Assad blamed armed opposition groups backed by “external components” for instigating the mayhem in his country and accused them of distorting Syria's image in the outside world and opening the way for foreign intervention.
“There are people who are well paid to carry out video cameras, film and collaborate with the media,” President Al-Assad charged in a June 20 speech.
“In some cases, peaceful demonstrations were used as a pretext under which armed men took cover; in other cases, they attacked civilians, policemen and soldiers by attacking military sites and positions or used assassination. Schools, shops and highways were closed by the use of force, and public property was destroyed, ransacked and put to fire deliberately.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the Syrian people's aspiration for self determination and desire that foreign powers stay clear of intrusion. But in the same breath, the chief American diplomat committed to also establish the U.S. aspiration for Mr. Assad's ousting.
“We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes. At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive. And we will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime and Assad personally to get out of the way of this transition,” she said, restating President Obama's position.
However some critical voices of U.S. foreign policy see the pressure on Syria as a continuation of political hypocrisy and ill motivation. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan described it as an imperialist mode of operandi to destabilize governments by empowering opposition groups.
“They set up puppet governments; and they legitimized factions or groups of rebels that would serve the objectives of the attacking nations under the noble cause of ‘protecting the people'—all this while bombing and wasting the land and lives of the people that America claims to be so concerned about,” explained Minister Farrakhan during an Aug. 13 Millions March in Harlem rally.
Moreover the Western line of being “for the people” and against Mr. Assad is being challenged by a counter-narrative supporting the 47-year-old leader from governments like Iran, Venezuela and Russia. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on negotiations between the Syrian government and its people to avoid a Western induced blood bath as witnessed in Libya.
“Western powers are hoping to attack Syria as they did in Libya. Syrian people and the government must negotiate and reach a compromise about reforms,” Pres. Ahmadinejad told Hezbollah's news channel, Al Manar.
For now the world stage is being organized for the demise of the Syrian government with an eager opposition waiting in the wings for their turn to make a pact with the devil as in Libya, leaving the Syrian people holding the ball of uncertainty.