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Realpolitik: Vested interests make Syria oil unlikely EU target

Realpolitik: Vested interests make Syria oil unlikely EU target

With the big EU firms commercial interests in Syrian oil, experts speculate that the EU is unlikely to consider wider sanctions before September.

August 11, 2011 11:33 by

and financial institutions meant for now “the likelihood of a strong response appears small”.

And while the United States might have wanted to go further, “they don’t want to push the question if there aren’t EU countries that also support it”, he said.

Ausama Monajed, a spokesman for the Syrian opposition in Europe, called for sanctions to be extended to the Syrian oil sales and marketing companies Sytrol and MAHRUKAT, as well as to the Syrian Real Estate Bank and the Syrian Commercial Bank.

“By sanctioning the oil companies you would dry up the major sources of funding being used to buy bullets to kill people,” he said, while warning of a campaign of increasing public pressure on EU governments and companies.

“If they want their logos associated with the images of 11, 12 and 13-year-old kids being shot in the head, then let it be.”

Even so, it remains unclear how effective such a campaign might be, given limited European public interest in what is seen by many as just the latest Middle East unrest, and preoccupation with internal problems such as the euro zone debt crisis.

“It’s unlucky for Syria that it’s just the latest in country to go though this,” said O’Donnell. “And the Libya episode has definitely made governments more cautious in their responses.”

The lack of quick results from the Western intervention in Libya and of any guarantee that any Syrian transition would be smooth, or even friendly to Western interests, has killed even theoretical talk of a military option in Syria.

Again this has played into Assad’s hands.

“It is very possible that Assad will remain in control,” O’Donnell said. “The fact that he knows military action is completely off the cards means the Americans and Europeans have lost their bluff cards and can’t even keep up the pressure by implying they might intervene,” she said.

“Also Assad knows that particularly when it comes to the Europeans, they don’t even have the military means to take forceful action because they are over-stretched elsewhere.”

(Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm and Ivana Sekularac in Amsterdam; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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