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Thursday, May 19, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Analyst: U.S. sanctions on Syria's Assad 'too late'

WASHINGTON — The United States, more than two months after the revolt in Syria, has sanctioned President Bashar Assad.


The administration of President Barack Obama has designated the Syrian president and six of his aides for sanctions. All of them were cited for human rights abuses amid the Assad crackdown on the opposition, in which about 1,000 people were killed.

"The sanctions come too late to add momentum to the protest movement," Joshua Landis, a U.S. analyst on Syria, said. "They may prolong the movement but will not topple the regime."

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"The actions the administration has taken today send an unequivocal message to President Assad, the Syrian leadership, and regime insiders that they will be held accountable for the ongoing violence and repression in Syria," Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen said.

Under the sanctions announced on May 18, assets of Assad and his aides in the United States would be frozen and Americans could not engage them in business, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials acknowledged that Treasury was not aware that the Syrian leadership held bank accounts or any other identifiable property in the United States.

This marked the second set of U.S. sanctions on the Assad regime. In the first set of sanctions in April 2011, Assad's brother rather than the president was designated.

Treasury said the Syrian president as well as Vice President Farouk A-Shaara, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Interior Minister Ibrahim Al Shaar, Defense Minister Ali Habib, military intelligence chief Abdul Qudsiya and Political Security Directorate Mohammed Zaytoun would come under sanctions. Officials said Habib had avoided the first set of sanctions in hope that he would prevent the army from participating in the crackdown.

"President Assad and his regime must immediately end the use of violence, answer the calls of the Syrian people for a more representative government, and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform," Cohen said.

Officials said the United States was coordinating measures against Syria with the European Union. They said the EU, which matched the first set of U.S. sanctions, was expected to penalize the Syrian president himself in late May.

The administration has also been consulting with Turkey on U.S. policy toward Assad. Turkish President Recep Erdogan was said to have urged Washington not to pressure the Syrian regime.

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