Have U.S. sanctions been effective against Syria?
It is no secret that the Syrian conflict has been consistently escalating over the past several years. While many countries have become increasingly wary of the violence, the United States is particularly concerned. Syria has previously showcased its support for many dangerous terrorist organizations, spoken of its interest in weapons of mass destruction, and displayed efforts to prevent the United States’ reconstruction of Iraq from being successful. The civil war has killed over 100,000 individuals, and it has resulted in thousands of displaced refugees and Syrians who have been forced to flee the country. Additionally, Syria’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, has been responsible for the deaths of over 9,000 Syrian civilians who were peacefully protesting the government.
In order to curb these immediate threats, America has chosen to fight back economically. Multiple sanctions have been enacted against the government, the Commercial Bank of Syria, and specific individuals and businesses. These specific businesses are designated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or [[OFAC|”OFAC”]]. These sanctions were designed to squash all of the aforementioned acts, while also severely limiting the funding that Assad’s regime uses in order to survive. The United States hoped that these sanctions would ultimately help to remove Assad from power.
Now that these economic blockades have been in place for several years, it’s time that we ask the important question: were these sanctions effective?
Unfortunately, many politicians and professionals do not think that they were. The civil war that Syria has been dealing with since March of 2011 has not only become more bloody and violent than ever, but it also does not appear to have an end in sight. Similarly, despite the major pressures that the United States has put on Assad’s regime, the government has done nothing but become more ruthless. Assad’s power has not been limited whatsoever, and his mistreatment of Syrian citizens has managed to increase.
The Syrian government has shown no regard for the sanctions that have been imposed on them for years, and many think that this fact will not be changing anytime soon. They are not visibly intimidated by America’s threats of future sanctions, nor are they willing to alter their behavior in any way. The United States appears to be aware of this, as they have started to change tactics and are instead focusing on physical force and aiding the rebels. Economic punishments are no longer cutting it, and the use of weapons is now seen as one of the only viable solutions.
Policy makers, professors, and other specialists in political science have stated that the failure of these economic sanctions against Syria should not come as a surprise. America has a long history of using sanctions as a main tactic in order to change oppressive regimes, and some examples of this include North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. In most of these scenarios, it is arguable that very few of these economic sanctions truly achieved their goal. With the direction that Syria is headed in now, it appears that this Middle Eastern country can be used as further proof that economic sanctions do not solve problems as well as we tend to think they do.
Image from; in-cyprus.com