The Forward, which not incidentally is among the better sources for the skinny on US sanctions policies in the Middle East, reports that more Syria sanctions are on the way:
The Bush administration is signaling its intention to slap new sanctions on Syria, say congressional sources and Western diplomats.
"There is very little doubt in anyone's mind that more sanctions will soon be imposed," said a congressional aide who was recently briefed by administration officials.
Frustrated by Syria's failure to block militants from crossing into Iraq to join the insurgency there, the Bush administration has been preparing new sanctions since July, sources said. The administration waited before imposing new sanctions mainly because the White House wanted to coordinate its policy with America's European allies.
Operating under the authority of the Syria Accountability Act, a law passed by Congress in 2003, the Bush administration has already banned American exports to Syria except for food and medicine; prohibited Syrian aircraft from flying into and out of the United States; frozen some Syrian assets in the United States, and cut off relations with one Syrian bank because of money-laundering concerns. Under the law, the administration could also move to restrict the movement of Syrian officials in the United States, downgrade diplomatic relations with Syria and prohibit American businesses from investing in Syria.
In addition, some experts said, depending on the scope of the conclusions of the U.N. commission investigating Hariri's assassination, the Bush administration could feel empowered to press for international sanctions.
The Israelis seem to know something's coming, too.
An investment ban is the biggest remaining stick available to the administration under the SAA. As things stand today, big oil companies like ConocoPhillips and Chevron can continue to invest in Syria as long as they limit the involvement of US persons and avoid shipping items to Syria which are subject to US jurisdiction. In practical terms that might mean contracting much of the work out. (Peter Schweizer proposed some additional options for punishing Damascus in a USA Today op-ed this past summer.)
Could the US convince the EU to go along in imposing punitive sanctions on Syria? It's doubtful. But the administration might prevail upon Europe to scuttle or more likely delay one of Syria's highest diplomatic priorities -- an association agreement with the EU. Negotiations on the agreement concluded a year ago, but the EU has not yet given the pact its final approval.