October 20, 2003


Putting Syria in the dog house (Claude Salhani, 9/22/2003 , UPI)

Again last week friends of Israel and enemies of Syria stepped up their efforts to pass the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, in a renewed effort to have sanctions imposed on Syria as punishment for failing to toe the U.S. line. Marc Ginzburg, a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, said, "Syria continues to believe it can ignore any threat from the U.S."

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara, however, said earlier Syria would meet any "reasonable" U.S. request for help following U.S. accusations that Damascus was not doing enough to end support for "terrorist activity."

It would be worth looking at what those sanctions would in fact accomplish should President Bush, who last year opposed passing the act, now decided to sign it. Undersecretary of State John Bolton announced last week that the administration had dropped its objection to the bill and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said, "I think it's time to pass this important legislation." Engel says the bill has the support of the majority of the House (266) and the Senate (73), including the majority of Democrats and Republicans. [...]

While the economic sanctions that would accompany the Syria Accountability Act does somewhat worry the Syrians, its ramifications are not all that devastating, seeing the current level of trade between Syria and the United States is not all that important in the first place. According to the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau, exports to Syria from the United States in 2002 amounted to a pitiful $274.1 million while imports from Syria for the same year were only $148.1 million.

And sanctions aimed at keeping technology out of Syria would simply not work. "If Syrians need a computer they would simply drive to Beirut," said a veteran U.S. diplomat, intricately familiar with the area. Smuggling banned items into Syria from Lebanon would be all the more simplified by the fact that Syrian troops still control large chunks of Lebanon, especially along the border between the two countries.

There's still one Ba'athist regime too many.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2003 11:59 PM
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