‘More UN sanctions petrify Syrian opposition’

The US and EU have suggested freezing more Syrian assets in response to continuing violence in the country. But journalist Simon Assaf says further UN sanctions would suit neither Assad nor the protesters.

The UN Security Council has also received a counter-resolution drafted by Russia and China. This one, instead of talking of travel bans and freezing assets, urges the conflicting parties in Syria to stop the bloodshed and start negotiations.

Simon Assaf, an investigative journalist with the Socialist Worker newspaper, believes most Syrians would welcome a dialogue between the current regime and demonstrators. With the protests affecting the country since March, the danger is high that the situation will spin out of control.

“Syria is in a Libyan situation, in which foreign powers found ways for intervening,” Assaf told RT. “Judging from the Syrians I have spoken to, there is a big argument between those who think there should be an armed insurrection and those who think it is a very dangerous path to take.”

Still, the Syrian opposition is not able to present a completely united front, continues the journalist. President Assad should step down but beyond that the dissidents have not worked out any further agreement. The opposition is growing more diverse every day, but still seemingly fails to represent the Syrian majority.

“There is a common silent majority: those who are unsure of the opposition but are still unhappy with the regime,” says Assaf. He believes the reforms announced by President Assad are aimed at these people rather than the demonstrators. Nevertheless, once the government starts to implement the reforms, some steam will be taken from the opposition.

The journalist believes that if the UN Security Council imposes more sanctions against Syria, it will be totally counter-productive.

“The opposition is petrified with what sanctions will do. They would make everyone’s life harder and make everyone think what they are going to eat next day, whether they will have a job and so on rather than punish the regime,” observes Assaf.

Simon Assaf doubts President Assad’s capability for holding a dialogue, but a dialogue is something most Syrians would still prefer, he concludes.

­However, according to political scientist Nada Hashwi, Syrian reforms cannot come overnight. She told RT that the West should give President Assad time to implement changes.

“Changes in a country do not happen overnight. It needs some time and they are not giving him time,” she said. “President Assad will never step down. If that happens we are going to see turmoil, not only in Syria but in all the surrounding countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, all the Gulf area – everything is going to turn upside down.”