Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Syria: Stopping the Shopping

by Elliott Abrams
March 23, 2012

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma vote during a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station in a Syrian TV station building in Damascus February 26, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/SANA) Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma vote during a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station in a Syrian TV station building in Damascus February 26, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/SANA)

There is something pathetic about the new sanctions adopted by the EU today against Syria. Here is what was done, as explained by the Telegraph of London:

The four women closest to President Assad were added to the European Union’s sanctions list at a meeting of Europe’s foreign ministers today. The Syrian leader’s wife, mother, sister and sister-in-law will be added to the travel ban and asset freeze blacklist as the EU steps pressure on Assad’s inner circle and family. The inclusion of Asma al-Assad follows the leak of emails detailing her shopping sprees. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary said: “Their behaviour continues to be murdering and totally unacceptable in the eyes of the world.”

Hague is right that the regime continues to murder, as artillery and tanks are used indiscriminately against cities. Today the AP reported this: “International condemnation of Assad’s regime and high-level diplomacy have failed to ease the year-old Syria conflict, which the U.N. says has killed more than 8,000 people.” That’s quite right; diplomacy has failed to “ease” the conflict. So will stopping Asma’s shopping in London and Paris. Such actions are symbolic, one might say, but appear to be symbols not of Western and international determination but of the lack of it. For such moves do not deter or prevent more murders today and tomorrow, nor do they help Syria’s people defend themselves.

Sooner or later—and one must hope that it’s sooner—we will move beyond speeches and resolutions, and give genuinely useful aid to Syrians who are fighting the regime. “Syrian Rebels Running Out Of Ammunition,” today’s Washington Post reports.  Stopping the shopping won’t remedy that.

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