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Obama Rules out Military Option, Widens Sanctions against Assad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Moscow, Beirut-U.S. diplomats and officials revealed on Thursday that President Barack Obama was in the process of introducing more sanctions against the Assad regime, saying those sanctions would first be implemented at the U.N. level against parties responsible for using chemical weapons in their attacks against civilians.

This development came few days after several U.S. officials had asserted that the Obama administration was studying several options at the military, diplomatic and economic levels, to face the deteriorating situation in Syria, and particularly in Aleppo.

Currently, several officers close to Bashar Assad in addition to a number of high-ranking military assistants are subjected to U.S. sanctions. However, sources say the next step taken by Washington would place sanctions on officers from lower ranks to negatively affect the morality of the Syrian military forces.

The sources added that the sanctions could also involve Russian companies responsible for providing the tools for attacking civilians. “This is a message that Moscow would not be spared from the sanctions,” the sources said.

At the diplomatic level, Moscow called on Thursday for an emergency U.N. Security Council session to discuss a French drafted resolution concerning a truce in Syria.

In this regard, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. “Nothing can justify the deluge of fire in Aleppo,” Ayrault said during a joint press conference with the Russian Foreign Minister.

Lavrov said Moscow is ready to work on a Syrian ceasefire draft resolution proposed by France to the Security Council, on condition that it does not contradict the obligations under the Russia-U.S. deal.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council will hold the emergency meeting after U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura warned that eastern Aleppo might be totally destroyed by the end of this year as a result of the Russian and Syrian air campaign.

There have been several signs that Washington was less enthusiastic about launching direct attacks against Syrian regime forces, after a spokesperson for Russia’s defense ministry threatened the U.S. against military intervening in Syria.

Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday that Russia might shoot down any aircraft attacking Syrian regime forces.

Konashenkov warned that Russia had deployed advanced S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missiles to its bases in Syria, noting that their range “can be a surprise for any unidentified flying objects.”