More Sanctions for Syria

As regime-led violence continues in Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the protester-death tally at 2,000 and the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions yesterday. The financial measures target politician and businessman Muhammad Hamsho. “The sanctions we are applying today to Hamsho and his company are the direct consequence of his actions” in support of the regime, said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen. Clinton called on the international community to increase the pressure on Damascus and said Washington was looking into other strategies to do so.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford left for Syria yesterday after meetings and a confirmation hearing in Washington. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that “it’s very important for him to get back on the ground, where he can go back to his vital work to outreach to the Syrian opposition as well as continue to press our concerns with the Syrian Government.”

Washington is considering the construction of an oil pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas. Secretary Clinton, during a press conference with her Canadian counterpart John Baird, said the U.S. government would make a decision about whether to issue a permit for the pipeline by the end of the year. “We are leaving no stone unturned in [the review] process,” Clinton commented. Republican voices in Congress have been calling for immediate approval of the plan, while various environmental and citizen groups oppose the project.

Yesterday, in his first press conference as secretary of defense, Leon Panetta issued more warnings about cutting the Pentagon’s budget too deeply. “We’re already taking our share of the discretionary cuts as part of this debt-ceiling agreement, and those are going to be tough enough,” Panetta argued, and anything more “would damage our national defense.”

And reports have it that Vice President Joe Biden was one of those administration officials to ask Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to stay in his current job. Geithner reportedly met with Biden to explain why he wanted to leave his post, and Biden in turn explained why Geithner was vital to the administration.