Once again President Obama has used the authority vested in him in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act to impose sweeping sanctions against a sovereign nation without Congressional approval.
On August 18th, 2011, Obama signed Executive Order 13582: Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to Syria, which authorizes the seizure of all Syrian-owned property and interests in property in the United States. It also bans exports of U.S. services to Syria, the import of petroleum from Syria, and any new investment in Syria or those who support them.
The following actions are now prohibited:
(b) the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any services to Syria;
(c) the importation into the United States of petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin;
(d) any transaction or dealing by a United States person, wherever located, including purchasing, selling, transporting, swapping, brokering, approving, financing, facilitating, or guaranteeing, in or related to petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin; and
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(e) any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by this section if performed by a United States person or within the United States.
The sweeping unilateral sanctions also permit the President to seize property without notice of those who sponsor or provide material assistance to Syria. In the case that such a person should have Constitutional protections, Obama declared “there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination” because of his powers during a national emergency.
At the time of the signing, the White House called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” indicating an official policy of regime change in Syria.
This action follows Executive Order 13572 from April called Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to Human Rights Abuses in Syria which gave Obama the broad power to seize assets of Syrians suspected of being complicit in human rights abuses.
Previously, President Obama bypassed Congress when he imposed sanctions and seized property from the Libyan government by Executive Order 13566 in February of this year. Less than a month later, the United States and NATO began policing the no-fly zone in Libya, also without debate in the Congress. Now the U.S. and NATO are engaged in a civil war in Libya where billions are being spent, again without Congressional approval or oversight.
These new sanctions, along with recent EU sanctions, combined with calls for regime change in Syria, seem to be following the same pattern as the Libya invasion. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that if Syrian President al-Assad resists, he will be forced out one way or the other. It’s also apparent that Obama believes he needn’t consult Congress or abide by the Constitution about these matters because of powers vested in him under national and international emergency. If the pattern is any indication, America may be headed for another undeclared war.