The United States will pursue “a strategy of isolation,” including sanctions, with its allies if President Bashar al-Assad holds up a political process aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year war, a top U.S. diplomat for Syria told Reuters on Friday.
Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, said Washington would work with countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to impose tough international sanctions if Assad’s government failed to cooperate on rewriting the Syrian constitution as a prelude to elections.
“If the regime does that, we believe that then we can go after it the way we went after Iran before 2015 - with really tough international sanctions,” Jeffrey said, referring to secondary sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear program.
He added: “Even if the U.N. Security Council won’t pass them we will just do it through the European Union, we will do it through our Asian allies, and then we will make it our business to make life as miserable as possible for that flopping cadaver of a regime and let the Russians and Iranians, who made this mess, get out of it.”
Assad’s allies Russia and Iran, as well as China, have made some investments in the country, but they cannot afford the cost of rebuilding and want other countries to share the burden.
Western countries have said they will not approve reconstruction funding for Syria, or drop sanctions, without a political settlement. U.S. sanctions are already making it hard for foreign companies to work there.
Jeffrey has been charged by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee Washington’s role in a political process as a U.S.-led coalition cleans up the last remaining Islamic State militants.