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Meghan L. O'Sullivan

Sanctions Alone Won’t Topple Syria’s Assad: Meghan L. O’Sullivan

On Feb. 24, the U.S., European nations, members of the Arab League and other sympathetic countries making up the newly established “Friends of Syria” group will gather in Tunisia for an emergency meeting on how to stem the bloodshed in Syria. Their deliberations are almost certain to involve calls for more crippling sanctions to bring about regime change and debates over providing military support to the fractured opposition groups inside the country.

While more economic steps can and should be taken, policy makers need to rethink the incorrect assumption that the more ambitious the objective (regime change, in this case) the more comprehensive and aggressive sanctions must be. Instead of simply looking for more ways to isolate Syria economically, the U.S. and its allies need to think about how sanctions can be used specifically to advance regime change. This will require creating a sanctions policy more subtle and nuanced way than one aiming just to contain a regime, or even to change its behavior.