Syrian president Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Syrian state television in Damascus on August 21, 2011 (SANA/Courtesy Reuters).
I can never forget that callous, cold, and counter-productive answer from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright when she was asked about the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children as a result of sanctions: “We think the price is worth it.”
The sanctions were designed to weaken Saddam Hussein’s regime—they did not. Instead, we had Secretary Albright in a CBS interview undermining every fiber of the moral authority of the United States. That mistake cannot be repeated again.
Sanctions against the population of Gaza, collective punishment for voting for the political wing of a terrorist movement, have not led to mass street protests against Hamas or weakening of its control over Gaza. The Arab uprisings were an ideal moment for Gazans to rise up against Islamist rule by Hamas and call for Western support—they did not. Hamas has delayed holding elections in Gaza. There is yet to be mass outcry.
In Syria, in the large cities of Damascus, Aleppo, and elsewhere, the country’s president remains popular. Sanctions, however productive, will not dislodge this popularity. A population accustomed to blaming outsiders will fault Israel, the United States, and the European Union for punishing them. In time, anti-American sentiment will rise further as the regime demands “sacrifices for the motherland” from its people. Any opposition to such rallying cries will be labeled as khiyanah, or betrayal. Democracy activists will be cast as jasoos, or spies. These two Arabic words are not only deeply derogatory, but are exceptionally effective in creating outcasts of the most noble of citizens. Read more »