I.INTRODUCTION 240 II. WHAT ARE SANCTIONS? 244 III. EFFECTS OF SANCTIONS GENERALLY 245 A. Impact of Sanctions on Sender Countries 246 B. Consequences of Sanctions for Target Countries 247 C. When Sanctions Are Effective 248 IV. AN ANALYSIS OF U.S. SANCTIONS ON SYRIA 251 V. EFFECTS OF SANCTIONS ON SYRIA 253 A. Economic Effects 253 B. Syria's Behavior 255 VI. LIKELIHOOD OF SYRIA MEETING U.S. DEMANDS UNDER THE 261 SANCTIONS A. In Light of Sanctions Generally 261 B. In Light of the Syrian Situation 263 VII. WHETHER WAIVING SANCTIONS WILL HELP OR HINDER U.S. 268 INTERESTS A. The Carrot and the Stick 268 B. Other Nations and Syria 270 C. Syria as a Cornerstone of the Middle Eastern Peace Process 273 VIII. RECOMMENDATIONS 275
On January 20th, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. President Obama's inaugural address suggested a strong willingness to work with countries that the Bush Administration had dubbed "the Axis of Evil." (1) His statement that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist," evinced this readiness to reach out to such countries. (2) The President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, sent a letter to President Obama, congratulating him on his inauguration and promising cooperation on various issues in the Middle East. (3) These actions suggested an end to the United States' isolationist policy toward Syria and signaled the possibility that Syria would aid the United States in achieving peace in the region.
Since President Obama's inauguration, his administration has explored new approaches in U.S. relations with Syria, (4) in contrast to the isolation of Syria over the past decade by "key international players." (5) U.S.-Syrian diplomatic relations had worsened over the ten years following the Clinton-sponsored breakdown of Syrian-Israeli negotiations. (6)
During this time, several events led to the further disintegration of U.S.-Syria relations: (1) the Palestinian intifadah of 2000; (2) Syrian support of groups such as Hamas; (3) Syria's disapproval of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; (4) the Bush Administration's region-wide policy of promoting democracy--pushing for the reassertion of Lebanese sovereignty from Syria; (5) U.S. policymakers' open support for a regime change in Syria; and (6) the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. (7) Furthermore, the United States placed sanctions on Syria through the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 ("SAA"), the USA PATRIOT Act, and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA"). (8) After the assassination of Hariri, the United States withdrew its ambassador from Syria. (9) Despite such events, some analysts have suggested that Syria might now be in a position to "benefit from a more advantageous regional political environment." (10)
Syria's leadership consists of an "authoritarian military-dominated regime." (11) The current chief of state, President Bashar al-Assad, took office in July 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad. (12) The major ruling party is the socialist pan-Arab Ba'th Party, which came to power in 1963 and to which the al-Assad family belongs. (13) The Syrian legal system is a combination of French and Ottoman civil law, while Personal Status Courts employ Islamic law in marriage and divorce cases. (14) Major international issues involving Syria include a dispute with Israel over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the presence of well over one million Iraqi refugees in Syria, and accusations of Syrian interference in Lebanon and the destabilization of Iraq. (15)
The Obama Administration and the 111th Congress "increased calls for greater U.S. engagement with Syria." (16) Several Congressmen have visited Syria, and U.S. officials have held talks with Syrian administration officials. (17) On February 16th, 2010, President Obama nominated Robert Ford to be the U.S. ambassador to Syria. (18) After the appointment was held up in the Senate for several months, (19) Obama made a recess appointment in December, 2010. (20) Ford met with and presented his credentials to President al-Assad on January 27th, 2011. (21) He is the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005, when the United States withdrew its ambassador following the Hariri assassination. (22)
The Obama Administration has also agreed to ease certain sanctions on Syria--the United States approved the export of Boeing parts to repair two Syrian Airlines Boeing 747 airplanes that the airline previously could not repair due to the embargo. (23) However, the earlier promises have not materialized to the extent Syria would have liked, as President Obama renewed the existing sanctions in 2009 and 2010. (24) As President al-Assad has stated, "What has happened so far is a new approach. Dialogue has replaced commands, which is good. But things stopped there." (25)
Foreign policy experts debate the approach that the United States should take toward Syria. Advocates for improving the relationship between the United States and Syria aver that "a normalization of ties with the Asad regime may not only further Middle East peace, but, more broadly, weaken Iran ... ." (26) The Congressional Research Service, noting that there are "signs of increased U.S. diplomatic engagement with Syria," has identified several key unresolved questions facing U.S. policymakers, including the following: (1) Would Syria be able or willing to control or disarm Hezbollah in Lebanon as Israel has demanded?; (2) Should Syrian-U.S. relations markedly improve, would closer ties to the West come at the expense of Syria's ties to Iran?; (3) Would closer Syrian ties to the West come at the expense of Lebanese sovereignty? (27) More complicated and difficult to predict is how the recent demonstrations and unrest in Syria will affect U.S. policy toward Syria. (28) Given the complexity of these issues, deciding whether the United States should take steps to improve its relationship with Syria is not easy.
This Note aims to address whether continued sanctions are in the best interest of the United States, and if not, what actions will contribute to a positive relationship between the United States and Syria. Part II begins the analysis by providing some basic information on sanctions and their common purposes. Part III discusses the effectiveness of sanctions generally, while Part IV describes the Syrian sanctions specifically. Part V illustrates some of the effects that U.S. sanctions have had on Syria. Part VI explores the likelihood of Syria meeting U.S. demands under the sanctions, and Part VII provides an analysis of whether waiving sanctions would help or hinder U.S. interests in Syria and in the region. Finally, Part VIII concludes by presenting some policy recommendations.
II. WHAT ARE SANCTIONS?
This Note discusses two types of sanctions--economic and non-economic. An economic sanction is any restriction that one country (the sender country) imposes on international commerce with another country (the target country) to persuade the target country's government to change a policy. (29) Economic sanctions may include the following actions: (1) "Limiting exports to the target country;" (2) "Limiting imports from the target country;" (3) Restricting investment in the target country;" (4) "Prohibiting private financial transactions between a sender country's citizens and the target country's citizens or government;" and (5) "Restricting the ability of a sender country's government programs ... to assist trade and investment with the target country." (30) The U.S. sanctions on Syria include a combination of these economic measures, which Part IV will illustrate more fully.
By contrast, non-economic sanctions aim to change the target country's policies by denying the target country legitimacy or prestige. (31) Examples of non-economic sanctions include (1) canceling ministerial and summit meetings with a target country, (2) denying a target country's government officials visas to enter the sender country, (3) withdrawing a sender country's ambassador, and (4) withholding foreign aid. (32) Therefore, the U.S. withdrawal of its ambassador to Syria after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri is an example of a non-economic sanction.
In general, the purpose of both economic and non-economic sanctions is to change a target country's policies or to effect regime change. (33) Hufbauer et al. (34) have broken down this purpose into five more specific categories: (1) altering "military adventures;" (2) impairing the economic capability of the target country in order to limit its ability to wage war (such as impeding its ability to develop weapons of mass destruction); (3) effecting regime change; (4) remedying human rights violations; and (5) achieving modest foreign policy goals (such as combating terrorism or drug-trafficking). (35) The following section examines the effectiveness of sanctions generally, including their impact on sender countries, their consequences for target countries, and when those sanctions are most effective.
III. EFFECTS OF SANCTIONS GENERALLY
The basic tenet of sanctions theory is that placing economic pressure on a nation's civilians will translate into policy changes by the target nation's government. (36) Woodrow Wilson, an early proponent of the use of sanctions as an alternative to military force, stated after World War I:
A nation boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender. Apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force. It is a terrible remedy. It does not cost a life outside the nation boycotted, but it brings pressure upon the nation that, in my judgment, no modern nation could resist. (37)
Although proponents of sanctions originally hailed them as a peaceful and effective means to change the policies of foreign countries, most studies today have concluded that unilateral economic sanctions are ineffective. (38) In 1995, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then U.N. Secretary General, wrote that sanctions "raise the ethical question of whether suffering inflicted on vulnerable groups in the target country is a legitimate means of exerting pressure on political leaders whose behavior is unlikely to be affected by the plight of their subjects." (39) This Part examines the use of sanctions generally and their impact on both the sender and target countries. It concludes by discussing the ways in which sender countries can use sanctions most effectively.
A.Impact of Sanctions on Sender Countries
Before deciding to use or continue to use sanctions against a target country, a sender country should determine the proposed sanction's potential impact on trade. Not only do sanctions negatively affect the economies of target countries, but they also have significant implications for sender countries as well. For example, Askari et al. estimate that in 1998, U.S. sanctions on Syria cost the United States $268 million in lost exports to Syria, and a total of about $15 billion in lost U.S. exports to all sanctioned countries that year. (40) Hufbauer et al. found that in 1995, economic sanctions caused a $15 to $19 billion reduction in U.S. exports to twenty-six target countries. (41) Without an "offsetting increase in exports to other markets, that would mean a reduction of more than 200,000 jobs in the relatively higher-wage export sector and a consequent loss of nearly $1 billion annually in export sector wage premiums." (42) Such a loss of export-sector jobs would have a negative impact, even when the country remains at full employment. (43) Because the export sector wage premium is about 12 to 15 percent higher than non-export sector jobs, sanctions result in a significant loss of wages for sender economies. (44)
Additionally, many U.S. businessmen fear that the impact of unilateral U.S. sanctions on trade will continue after the United States lifts them, due to decreased foreign confidence in the reliability of U.S. companies as suppliers and the reduction of foreign direct investment in the sender nation. (45) According to Hufbauer et al., only limited evidence exists to show that the negative impact on trade lingers after the sender lifts sanctions, but any firm conclusion on this matter suffers from a paucity of data. (46) The authors do note, however, that sanctions could have "more pronounced longterm effects" for products such as "sophisticated equipment that requires after service" and for sectors such as infrastructure. (47) Although the authors do not give a specific reason for those long-term effects, it is reasonable to conclude that once a buyer contracts with a supplier for infrastructure or equipment requiring updates, service, or repair by those with the expertise to perform those services, it is more likely to continue its relationship with the initial supplier.
B.Consequences of Sanctions for Target Countries
Even though policymakers intend that sanctions place pressure on target governments through economic pressure on civilians, targeted leaders have generally managed to remain in power and continue pursuing their policies. (48)Targeted leaders have often been able to retranslate the message of sanctions. (49) Rather than bearing the brunt of civilian anger, they rally popular support in resistance, invoking a patriotic response against the sender. (50) Furthermore, due to today's global economy, U.S. unilateral sanctions are rarely sufficient to persuade a target country to change its policies, as target countries are able to meet their market needs by importing from other countries. (51)
In addition to their general ineffectiveness at changing target countries' policies, sanctions have had more harmful effects. (52) For instance, sanctions have contributed to the presence of black markets, allowing elites and their collaborators in target countries to make large profits. (53) Because elites are able to escape the economic depression that sanctions cause, the general population and poorest members of society become the real victims. (54) By harming the poorer members of society and allowing many elites to profit, sanctions hinder the growth of a middle class and thereby slow the process of democratization. (55)
In some cases, economic sanctions have caused humanitarian disasters, such as the U.N. Security Council's multilateral economic sanctions on Iraq. (56) Those sanctions, while restricting Saddam Hussein's power to rebuild his army and pursue weapons of mass destruction, contributed "to the decimation of the Iraqi economy and the death of more than 500,000 children." (57) Sanctions' other effects on Iraq included food shortages, lack of access to medicine and vaccines, pollution of public wells and the Tigris, and widespread unemployment. (58)
C.When Sanctions Are Effective
Despite the negative consequences and impacts of sanctions, policymakers commonly cite the following reasons when advocating the use of sanctions: (1) military force is too costly; (2) customary diplomacy is too weak; and (3) a superpower, like the United States, has "a special responsibility to deal with misdeeds and despots" worldwide. (59) The same policymakers, however, may have another reason underlying their decisions--politicians who sponsor sanctions may gain popularity with constituents who see them as taking a strong stance against pariah states. (60) Notably, when a sanction's goal is merely to send a political message, the sanction is effective immediately upon implementation.
By contrast, when the sender government seeks to change the target government's policies or its regime, many factors can affect its success. To determine a sanction's effectiveness, one must determine whether the sender country achieved its objective and whether that success was due to the sanction or to some other factor. (61) For a sanction to be effective its political and economic costs to the target country must outweigh the political and security costs of complying with the sender's demands. (62) However, predicting such costs and "how the target will perceive and weigh them" is difficult. (63)
The success of sanctions depends largely on the sender's relative leverage over the target and the sender's interest in achieving compliance from the target. (64) Unilateral economic sanctions are rarely effective, as target countries can usually meet their needs through commerce with other nations. (65) Another type of sanctions--financial sanctions--may be more effective than trade sanctions because they are easier to enforce and monitor, more difficult for the target country to evade, and may cause market-reinforcing effects. (66) Financial sanctions include "delaying or denying credit or grants" to the target, interrupting development assistance, and freezing the assets of the target country …