November 2005

UN decision on Syria right for now

By: Dennis Brown

George LopezThe U.N. Security Council’s decision to hold off on highly punitive sanctions against Syria was a wise one, according to George Lopez, a University of Notre Dame professor and expert on U.N. sanctions.

In the wake of a U.N. report issued last week that implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Syria’s full cooperation with a continuing investigation of the assassination. The council did not, however, impose economic or other sanctions.

Lopez has coined the term “smart sanctions” to describe a measured approach by the U.N. toward nations in violation of international law.

“ ‘Smart sanctions’ work best when they are not aimed at punishment or isolation of a regime, but when they engage leaders constructively with the Security Council in remedying the conditions which give rise to the sanctions,” said Lopez, director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. “In this case, targeted sanctions serve as the clear and credible stick, as well as a carrot for those Syrian and Lebanese leaders not involved in the crime. These government elites need to be convinced that their compliance in bringing these murderers to justice will bring a lifting of the sanctions and the promised benefits of a return to normal economic life.”   

Contact George Lopez at

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