Impact of Sanctions on Syria

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Since 2004 Syria has been subject to various US economic sanctions under the Syria Accountability Act, imposed for Syria's alleged support of terrorist activities, involvement in Lebanon, weapons of mass destruction programs, and US accusations of its destabilizing role in Iraq.[1] Further sanctions were imposed by the US and the EU in 2011 in response to governmental brutality against protesters in the country.[2]

2004 US Sanctions

In May 2004, US President George W. Bush imposed sanctions on Syria banning all exports excluding food and medicine, freezing the assets of Syrians and Syrian entities and banning Syrian flights between Syria and the US. The sanctions excluded energy investment in the country.[3] The motives for these sanctions was alleged Syrian support for Lebanese opposition group Hezbollah and Palestinian group Hamas, [4] both listed on the US State department's list of terrorist groups.[5]

In eary 2008 President Bush ordered expanded economic sanctions against Syrian officials and their associates.[4]

Oil Embargo 2011-12

In 2011 several countries imposed sanctions on Bashar al-Assad's regime in an attempt to force the Syrian government to stop using violence against anti-government demonstrators. Russian opposition meant that, as of September 2011, UN sanctions were not possible, however the US and the EU made the decision to impose their own.[6]

The US already had sanctions in place against Syria before the unrest began, however in September the EU also placed an arms embargo on Syria and in September 2011 banned imports of Syrian oil. Italy won a concession allowing it to fulfil existing contracts until 15 November 2011.

BBC reports suggested that the EU sanctions had the potential to have a greater impact on the regime than other sanctions, given that before the ban 90% of oil exports from Syria went to the EU, primarily to Germany, Italy and France.[7] However Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, suggested that "there is certainly someone who will buy (the oil)", arguing that countries could buy refined products from Caribbean refiners without knowing the origin of the oil.[8]

Those energy companies that chose to withdraw their investments from Syria suffered financially. According to report by Counterpunch, French companies such as Total were the largest losers, and Shell also suffered greatly. The withdrawal of these European energy companies created an opportunity for some state-owned companies from countries which rejected the sanctions, such as Chinese CNPC and Indian ONGC.[9]

According to comments by Oil Minister Sufian Alao in January 2012, Western sanctions on Syrian oil exports had cost the country $2 billion since September 2011.[10]


  1. "General Information" US Embassy Damascus, retrieved 27 March 2012.
  2. "Background Note: Syria" US State Department, 26 January 2012.
  3. "Syria welcomes U.S. oil deals despite sanctions" Energy Bulletin, 3 June 2004.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Bush expands sanctions on Syria" BBC, 14 February 2008.
  5. "State Sponsor: Syria" Council on Foreign Relations, February 2008.
  6. "Europe’s Oil Embargo Leaves Syria Urgently Seeking New Customers" New York Times, 27 September 2011.
  7. "Q&A: Syria sanctions" BBC, 27 November 2011.
  8. "Europe’s Oil Embargo Leaves Syria Urgently Seeking New Customers" New York Times, 27 September 2011.
  9. "Who is the Real Loser? Sanctioning Syria" Counterpunch, 21 December 2011.
  10. "Syria says lost $2 billion from oil sanctions" Reuters, 20 January 2012.

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