Cut Off the Money From Syria’s Enablers

Cross-posted from the United to End Genocide Blog.

The shocking stories of state-sponsored torture and murder coming out of Syria make it easy to feel helpless, but there are opportunities to take action.

The United Nations estimates that at least 7,500 Syrians have died at the hands of their government’s military. As the death toll mounts, people and governments around the world are looking for levers to escalate the pressure on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

One such lever is the economic one: where does the regime get its money, who is bankrolling it, and how can we cut off the flow of funds?

Investors, consumers, workers, and governments have a moral responsibility to avoid complicity in Syrian atrocities. We also have a strategic opportunity to identify those sectors, such as weapons, from which the Assad regime derives its power—and disrupt business as usual.

And when economic sanctions are in place—as they have been against Syria for several decades—that legal obligation reinforces the moral and strategic rationales for action.

Rosoboronexport is hardly a household name. But the Russian state-owned weapons dealer highlights a dangerous disconnect between U.S. foreign and economic policy—in which our government’s purchasing power is undermining efforts to prevent mass atrocities in Syria.

United to End Genocide and our allies at Human Rights First have learned that Rosoboronexport—which earlier this year signed a deal to sell combat jets to the Syrian government—also has contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense worth nearly $1 billion.

Take action: tell Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to cut ties immediately with the Russian firm.

The U.S. should not be doing business with Rosoboronexport. Breaking these ties would send a strong message to the corporation, and to all other corporations, that the U.S. is serious about cutting off the flow of weapons and cash to murderous regimes. It will let Assad know that his days of murdering his own people are numbered.

Kathy Mulvey is the director of the Conflict Risk Network at United to End Genocide.