U.S. Considering Targeted Syria Sanctions

The Obama administration is weighing targeted sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime for their increasingly violent backlash against anti-government protesters.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that targeted sanctions is one way to turn up the heat on Assad and convince him to allow protesters to air their grievances against the government without fearing for their lives.

“We are considering targeted sanctions to respond to the crackdown in Syria,” Carney told reporters at a Monday briefing as the administration stepped up its denunciations of the Syrian government. “We’re looking at other means to increase the pressure on Syria in a meaningful way.”The violence Assad’s regime is using against protesters is appalling, Carney added.

Sanctions likely would include a freeze on Syrian assets similar to the one the U.S. imposed on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi before the United Nation’s approved military airstrikes in that country. It also could include a ban on business between the U.S. and Syria, U.S. officials have said.

On Monday, the regime’s Army reportedly gunned down five more people, adding to an estimated 300 killed since the uprising began in February.

Carney did not rule out U.S. military action in Syria, but appeared to downplay the possibility.

He said Libya was a “unique” situation because there was an opportunity for the U.S. to prevent mass killings Qaddafi had threatened in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and the U.S. had the support of the Arab League and several other allies including France and the United Kingdom.

The remarks sharpen the U.S. opposition to Assad’s crackdown following President Obama’s strongly worded condemnation Friday of the the regime’s attacks against protesters who oppose it.