Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey announces sanctions against Syria

"The sanctions by Turkey, one of Syria’s top trading partners, come as the Arab League and the European Union are enacting their own punitive measures — a triple blow that highlights the growing isolation of the Damascus government and that could significantly hurt Syria’s economy. In Washington, the White House commended the Turkish government for imposing the sanctions, which it said will “undoubtedly increase the pressure on the Syrian regime.”

Syria is one of the last holdouts from the Arab Spring which saw many longstanding North African and Middle Eastern governments falls to internal conflicts. Some such as Tunisia or Algeria occurred with little bloodshed while others like Egypt and Libya were violent conflicts last many months. The United States and NATO led the air campaign against Qaddafi's regime and aided the rebels in overturning his government. Many in both the Middle East and West saw the United States preparing to get involved in the Syrian crisis, perhaps as a prelude to an attack against Iran.

Bashar al-Assad was elected president of Syria in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad who had ruled Syria for 29 years until his death. While Syria has prospered under economic policies implemented by his father, Assad's reign has been plagued by charges of corruption, human rights violations, and economic collapse.

When opposition forces started to call for his resignation, Assad launched some of the most violent attacks seen during the Arab Spring. In one weekend alone, the Syrian military killed over 500 Syrian protestors. The violence is so extreme that the Arab League has called for Assad's resignation.

So why hasn't the United States started to drop GPS guided munitions all over Assad's palace? Well for two reasons. First, although some feared intervening in Syria would merely be a prelude for a US attack of Iran the risk of such of attack make it unlikely. The second reason was our friends the Russians are planning to send a battle group in response to the USS George H. Bush being on station off the shore of Syria.

Russia and China have both warned the United States not to become involved in the Syria crisis. The presence of Russian ships may be in response to US plans to expand a missile defense system into form Eastern Bloc countries or that Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia are being considered for membership in the EU.

Matters are getting worse. An airstrike earlier in the week by US forces resulted in two dozen Pakistanis being killed. Relations have deteriorated with our "ally" Pakistan. The attack could be used as a recruiting tool by radical Islamists in Syria. Turkey is after all a NATO member and their sanctions may be viewed as sponsored by the US.

We are going into the Christmas season with many Americans beginning their travels over the next few weeks. Terrorists may take this opportunity to attack Americans either abroad or at home.

The Washington Post

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