There were few objections in Congress to a program of economic sanctions designed to hold the Assad regime accountable for systematic war crimes for which there is overwhelming and grisly evidence.
As James Jeffrey and Joel Rayburn — America’s top diplomats working on Syria — noted in a recent briefing, the Caesar Act has the potential to do so by gradually sapping the regime of the resources it needs to mount the military operations against civilians.
Previous U.S. sanctions against Syria mainly prohibited American individuals and companies from doing business with the Assad regime and others blacklisted by the Treasury Department.
Yet there is also a contingent of good faith critics who acknowledge the gravity of the crimes for which Assad is responsible, but assess that sanctions cause unintended harm to civilians that outweighs their impact on the Syrian regime.
The essential difference, at least in principle, is that aid directly addresses the need of civilians, while sanctions seek to deprive the regime of revenue it can direct to military offensives, offshore bank accounts, or other undesirable uses.
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