U.S. Prepares Additional Sanctions Against Assad as Syria Violence Rages On

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford tells Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 'It is time for us to start thinking about the day after Assad'.

As violence in Syria escalates, U.S. officials say that the Obama administration is preparing additional sanctions against Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Tuesday with Syrian activists living in America and expressed her sympathy for the victims of the Assad regime's abuses.

Clinton also expressed her confidence "in the Syrian people's ability to chart a new course for Syria," as relayed by State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner in a briefing with reporters.

ford obama - United States Government Work - August 3 2011
United States Government Work

"We do plan to move forward with additional sanctions under existing authorities, and we're exploring the scope of those sanctions," Toner added. "Our goal here is to isolate Assad both politically and deny it revenue.”

“We're working with Congress, certainly,” he said, “but in the meantime we are looking at additional steps we can take to increasingly isolate Assad."

Three U.S. Senators - Kirsten Gillibrand (D–NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) also prepared a new bill that would slap additional sanctions on the Syrian regime, calling on the President to block Syrian access to the U.S. financial system and markets, and block federal contracts for companies that invest in Syria’s energy sector.

“The pre-Ramadan assault by Bashar Assad against the Syrian people demands a strong and immediate response by the U.S. and our allies,” Senator Lieberman said.

“The legislation we are introducing today will target the Syrian regime's economic dependence on the energy sector, dramatically ratcheting up pressure against the dictatorship in Damascus and in support of a democratic transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people,” Lieberman added.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met yesterday with President Obama to update him on events occurring in Syria. In testimony today at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ford said that, "It is time for us to start thinking about the day after Assad; Syria's 23 million citizens already have."

Ford told the assembled Senators that since his last appearance before the committee in March of this year, "over 1,600 people have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested, in a ruthless attempt to cow the Syrian people into submission - an attempt that has failed."

Ford said that he intends to return to Syria in a couple of days and to continue "through my actions and my presence to demonstrate solidarity with the Syrian people and our rejection of the regime's empty promises, senseless violence, and sectarian fear-mongering."

"Assad and his circle will not endure forever, but it is not entirely clear who or what will follow," Ford said. "An additional focus of my work on the ground, which I do not advertise widely, is getting to know the leading activists and assessing their needs and opportunities for the United States to help.”

“They are independent,” added Ford. “They do not want American military involvement, but it does offer us opportunities to promote respect for our principles and ideals, and to eventually reinforce stability and peace in the Middle East,” he said.