Syria: EU Foreign Affairs Council adopts sanctions against Bashar al-Assad and nine other in the regime

At the start of today’s meeting of EU:s Foreign Affairs Council Carl Bildt, the foreign minister of Sweden tweeted that “…we start with situation in North Africa and Middle East. Strong message on Syria necessary.” Carl Bildt is not known for his belief in the power of sanctions and isolation, but in the case of Syria (as well as Iran and Belarus) Bildt stated that this (sanctions) was the only tool available.

It has been expected that EU:s foreign ministers would affirm the unanimous decision taken on 18 May 2011 by EU:s 27 ambassadors of the Political and Security Committee (PSC) to endorse the adding of 10 names, including that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the sanction list. Although Germany, Greece and Cyprus opposed leveling sanctions against Bashar al-Assad on previous council meeting, this time around no quarters where given (here and here).

Besides Bashar al-Assad we currently do not know whom among the Syrian decision-makers EU has imposed sanctions against. The names will be published on 24 May in the Official Journal of the EU (i.e. tomorrow). But it is reasonable that the names that appear on President Obama’s Executive Order of 18 May 2011 will be included as well by the EU. If that is the case it will mean that EU also would impose sanctions on Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Minister of Defense Ali Habib Mahmoud (Abdul Fatah Qudsiya – head of the Military Intelligence, Mohammed Dib Zaitoun, head of the Political Security Directorate and Minister of Interior Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar who are on the Executive Order on May 18 has already been put in sanction by the EU in previous decision of 11 May).

But with Bashar al-Assad these are only four out of ten individuals. Who are the remaining six? I would put my money on Assef Shawkat, Bashar al-Assads brother in-law (married to his older sister Bushra) form head of the Military Intelligence and deputy chief of staff of the Syrian armed forces. Judging from the former EU sanction list we might see local heads of one or more security services (as was done in the case of Dara’a) in Homs, Latakia, Baniyas or some local military commander involved in the operation against Tel Kalakh. Another person included might be Bouthina Shabaan. But we should no be surprised if EU adds one or more individuals from the business community, such as members of the board of directors of Cham Holding, the Executive Team of Bena properties, Cham Investment Group, Syrian Pearl Airlines and SANA investment, among other.

About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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