yesterday that he wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down from office, and promised to implement
more sanctions on the Syrian regime. But conservatives in Washington have
several additional ideas for how to up the pressure on Assad.
mostly conservative national security experts wrote a letter to Obama today on
the letterhead of the Foundation for the Defense of
commending him for calling on Assad to step down and urging him to quickly ramp
up the pressure on his regime. "We are concerned... that unless urgent actions
are taken by the United States and its allies, the Assad regime's use of force
against the Syrian people will only increase and the already significant death
toll will mount," the letter said.
The signatories want Obama to push hard for
multilateral energy sector sanctions and to advocate for the passage of new
Syria sanctions legislation, which
was introduced in Congress earlier this month. They
also think the administration should encourage Germany, Italy, and France to stop buying Syrian oil, forcefully
urge energy trading firms from Switzerland, Holland, and elsewhere to stop
selling Syria refined petroleum products, and sanction any person involved in
Syrian pipeline construction, including insurance firms, shipping companies,
financing entities, and ports managers.
want harsher sanctions on Syria's central bank, punishment for anybody who buys
Syrian debt, additional U.N. sanctions based on Syria's record of weapons and
nuclear proliferation, and the recalling of U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford.
reminded the president that the fall of the Assad regime would not only be a
boon for the Syrian people, but also have "game-changing implications" for the balance
of power in the Middle East. "It would deny Iran the use of its major ally as a
proxy for terrorism, stem the flow of Syrian arms to Hezbollah, reduce
instability in Lebanon, and lessen tensions on Israel's northern border," the
commended Obama's new
executive order that requires the immediate freeze of
all Syrian government assets that fall under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits
U.S. citizens from doing any business with the Syrian government. The new
sanctions also ban the import of Syrian petroleum products into the United
States, and ban Americans from doing business with Syrian petroleum companies.
The signers include former NSC Middle East official Elliott
Council on Foreign Relations' Max Boot,
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, AEI's Fred Kagan, the Brookings Institution's
Bob Kagan, former National Security
Adviser Robert McFarlane, former CIA
Director James Woolsey, top GOP
consultant Randy Scheunemann, and
former NSC official Jamie Fly, now
executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative.
The calls for Ford's recall have been echoed in both
the House and Senate. House Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) yesterday
praised the administration's move but reiterated her call for Ford for come
back to Washington.
Several nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have
recalled their ambassadors from Damascus but the Obama administration argues
that Ford's activities on the ground, including a recent visit to protests in
Hama, are helping the opposition. Ros-Lehtinen disagrees.
"It is also important that the administration take
the next step in ending its engagement policy and reverse its mistake of
sending a U.S. ambassador to Syria," she said in a statement. "The
continued presence of an ambassador in Damascus sends a mixed message to the
Syrian regime and gives legitimacy to Assad and his cronies."
Full text of the letter after the jump:
August 19, 2011
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Dear President Obama:
We commend you for your administration's statement that "the future of Syria
must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in
their way... For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President
Assad to step aside."
We are concerned, however, that unless urgent actions are taken by the United
States and its allies, the Assad regime's use of force against the Syrian
people will only increase and the already significant death toll will mount.
As you have stated previously, the Arab Spring presents an opportunity to
"pursue the world as it should be" rather than continuing to "accept the world
as it is." There is perhaps no place where this is truer than Syria.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad and that of his father which preceded him, have
brutally repressed the Syrian people for decades, imprisoning, torturing, and
killing those who attempted dissent. In recent years, Syria has formed
increasingly close ties with Iran, jointly supporting terrorist groups with
funds and weaponry used to terrorize American allies in the region. For
years, the Assad regime pursued a covert nuclear program with North Korean
assistance, which could have led to a disastrous cascade of nuclear
proliferation in the Middle East. Finally, by facilitating foreign
fighters' transit through Syrian territory, the Assad regime contributed to the
death and injury of thousands of American troops serving in Iraq over the last
The tactics used by the current regime make clear now more than ever that a
post-Assad Syria is in America's interest. We commend you for adding your
uniquely powerful voice to the chorus of foreign leaders in calling for Assad's
departure. We appreciate the executive order issued today that freezes Syrian
government assets in the U.S.'s jurisdiction and prohibits new investment in
Syria by U.S. persons or the exportation or sale of any services to Syria by
U.S. persons. We commend you for freezing imports of Syrian petroleum products
and prohibiting U.S. persons from transacting business related to Syrian-origin
petroleum products. The actions send a strong message of support to the Syrian
people in their quest for freedom.
We believe there is more than can be done. Specifically, we urge you to:
• Work with our European allies to tighten the sanctions
regime against Syria. Particular attention should be paid to potential
multilateral energy sector sanctions as well as the passage of energy sanctions
bills recently introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate.
• Encourage Germany, Italy, and France, which are the main
buyers of Syrian oil, to terminate their purchases of Syrian crude; forcefully
urge energy trading firms from Switzerland, Holland, and elsewhere to stop
their sales of refined petroleum products to Syria; and pressure European,
Russian, Chinese, and Indian companies to freeze their investments in Syria's
energy sector and the transfer of any energy-related technology, goods, and
• Sanction any person assisting Syria in the development of
energy pipelines as well as insurance firms, shipping companies, financing
entities, ports managers, and other persons active in supporting Syria's energy
• Implement measures against Iran's Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps individuals and entities doing business in Syria. Expand
sanctions against Syrian persons who are involved in human rights abuses,
support for terrorism, and supporting Syria's proliferation activities.
Sanction those international companies doing business with these designated
Iranian and Syrian individuals and entities.
• Sanction the Syrian Central Bank in order to freeze the
Assad regime out of the global financial system and inhibit the ability of the
regime to settle oil sales and other financial transactions. It is important to
ensure that the Central Bank of Syria does not facilitate trade for any
sanctioned Syrian banks, businesses and persons.
• Work with our European allies to follow your lead in
sanctioning the Commercial Bank of Syria and the Syrian Lebanese Commercial
• Sanction international persons involved in the purchase,
issuance, financing or the facilitation of Syrian sovereign debt, including
energy bonds, which the Assad regime may use to circumvent investment-related
sanctions in order to raise capital for its energy sector.
• Engage Syrian opposition figures outside the country and
ensure that all available aid and assistance, including secure communications
and Internet circumvention technology is being made available to these groups.
• Leverage the International Atomic Energy Agency's referral
of Syria to the United Nations Security Council for its violation of its
nonproliferation obligations to press for additional sanctions against
• Recall Ambassador Robert Ford from Damascus unless he is
clearly charged with aiding the transition to democracy in Syria.
Mr. President, the opportunity presented by recent developments in Syria and
the broader region is momentous. As you said in May, "we cannot hesitate
to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights,
knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more
stable, and more just." Supporting Syrians to rid themselves of Assad's yoke
would also have broader game-changing implications on peace and stability in
the Middle East. It would deny Iran the use of its major ally as a proxy for
terrorism, stem the flow of Syrian arms to Hezbollah, reduce instability in
Lebanon, and lessen tensions on Israel's northern border.
This is a significant moment where many of our allies and partners in Europe
and the region are in agreement that the Assad atrocities must stop now. They
are poised to act. Now is the time to continue placing the United States firmly
on the side of the Syrian people. We urge you to grasp this opportunity
and increase your administration's efforts to ensure that the brave people
taking to the streets in Syria are soon able to enjoy the fruits of freedom
that we in the West hold so dear.
Khairi Abaza, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Ammar Abdulhamid, pro-democracy Syrian activist
Hussain Abdul-Hussain, Kalimah Institute
Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations
Amr Al-Azm, Member, Executive Committee, Antalia Committee and Professor,
Shawnee State University
Tony Badran, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Bassam Bitar, Former Diplomat in the Syrian Embassy (Paris)
Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations
Toby Dershowitz, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Michael Doran, Brookings Institution
Mark Dubowitz, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Jamie Fly, Foreign Policy Initiative
Reuel Marc Gerecht, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Michael Makovsky, Bipartisan Policy Center
John Hannah, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
William Inboden, University of Texas-Austin
Frederick W. Kagan, American Enterprise Institute
Robert Kagan, Brookings Institution
William Kristol, Weekly Standard
Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University
Bashar Lutfi, Northwest Medical Center
Clifford D. May, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Honorable Robert C. McFarlane, Former National Security Advisor
Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Randy Scheunemann, Orion Strategies
Gary Schmitt, American Enterprise Institute
Lee Smith, Foundation for Defense of Democracies and The Weekly Standard
Henry Sokolski, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
Ambassador R. James Woolsey, Former Director of Central Intelligence, Chairman
of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Robert Zarate, Foreign Policy Initiative