With all the courage and moral dignity that it brought to World War Two, Italy has succeeded in postponing oil sanctions against Syria until November — when current contracts expire. That said, this craven and self-serving approach might actually turn out for the best. Sanctions often work better as a threat than as a reality; giving Syrian business more time to worry about sanctions may allow pressures for regime change to ripen from within. As an article in the FT reports, the EU sanctions could actually have a serious effect on the already-struggling Syrian economy:
Syrian businessmen say that could spell disaster for their businesses and the Syrian economy, already on its knees after five months of protests and violence.“The effect of sanctions will be dramatic,” says one leading business figure in Damascus. “Business is already basically zero; this is just going to mean a slow death for the economy.”Another person in the business services sector agrees, arguing that relations with Syria’s biggest trading partner are crucial. “[Syrian allies] Russia and China are no substitute for the EU,” he says. “Losing it will be disastrous.”
The EU accounts for nearly 95 percent of Syrian oil exports, and Syria is also dependent on European oil companies for refined gasoline and diesel fuel.There have been some recent signs that protests are picking up in Aleppo and Damascus; perhaps the prospect of sanctions, however delayed, may tip the scales toward change.