Sanctions hit Syrians claimed to interfere in Lebanon
United States President Barack Obama late on Thursday extended sanctions against Syrian or pro-Syrian personalities, days after the White House said it would ease trade sanctions imposed on the Arab state.
Obama said the sanctions were gainst those who allegedly were provoking instability in neighboring Lebanon.
"In the past six months, the United States has used dialogue with the Syrian government to address concerns and identify areas of mutual interest, including support for Lebanese sovereignty," Obama said in a statement.
He said there have been "some positive developments in the past year, including the establishment of diplomatic relations and an exchange of ambassadors between Lebanon and Syria."
But he said "the actions of certain persons continue to contribute to political and economic instability in Lebanon and the region and constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."
As a result, he said, he decided to extend for one year sanctions decreed Aug. 1, 2007 by former President George W. Bush who froze the assets of individuals accused of undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty on Syria’s behalf.
The United States has inflicted a whole series of sanctions against Syria, its chief adversary in the region along with Iran, which is allied with Damascus.
Carrots and sticks
President Obama’s decision came a few days after the United States said it would consider easing trade sanctions imposed on Damascus.
Obama’s Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on July 26 the United States would take steps to exempt Damascus from U.S. sanctions on export of information telecommunication technologies (ICTs) as well as civilian aircraft spare parts.
The United States imposed three major types of on sanctions against Syria. The most comprehensive one was called the Syria Accountability Act (SAA) of 2004 and prohibits the export of most goods containing more than 10 percent U.S.-manufactured component parts to Syria.
The second type of sanction was imposed against the Commercial Bank of Syria in 2006. The third type of sanction were the ones levied by presidential Execution Orders against certain Syrian citizens and entities for their alleged role in spreading weapons of mass destruction, association with al-Qaeda and other allegations.
Since coming to office, Obama has moved cautiously to improve relations with Syria, mindful that it plays or could play an influential role in the region, whether in Lebanon, Iraq or in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.