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What US sanctions mean for Assad and Syria's crackdown

The US placed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday for the first time since he took office. Now the EU may follow suit.


Syria's President Bashar al-Assad listens to questions from journalists in Paris, in this December 2010 photo. The United States will impose sanctions on Assad for human rights abuses on May 18.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters/File

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The significance of the US decision to impose unprecedented sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not so much a financial blow, but rather a clear signal that the West is no longer willing to wait for him to make good on his promises of reform.

Mr. Assad was one of seven senior Syrian officials listed Wednesday on an executive order that subjects them to financial sanctions “to increase pressure on the Government of Syria to end its use of violence against its people and begin transitioning into a democratic system that protects the rights of the Syrian people," the US Treasury Department said.

It is the first time the US has sanctioned the Syrian president personally since he took power 11 years ago, although the Bush administration sanctioned the regime as a whole in 2004.

The Syrian regime had already lost the sympathy of the European Union, which last week imposed sanctions on 13 regime figures – but not Assad himself. The White House's move, however, suggests he may be included in a new set of EU sanctions reportedly under discussion.


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