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Sep-05-2011 15:30printcomments

Sanctioning Messenger Dr. Bouthainia Shaaban Assaults American Values

The US treasury and State departments have targeted her and the Obama administration, largely it appears, out of ignorance.

Dr. Bouthainia Shaaban
Syria's Dr. Bouthainia Shaaban. Courtesy:

(TRIPOLI) - As part of its 7th set of US sanctions against Syria, which began in June, 2011, the Obama administration has targeted a messenger, a sometime spokeswoman, a positive image of Syria, someone people of all religions and cultures have easily identified with over the past several years, Dr. Bouthainia Shaaban. The US administration acted thus for the sole purpose of pressuring the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but has succeeded in undermining American values of freedom of expression much more.

On August 28, 2011, the US Treasury and State Departments targeted Dr. Bouthainia Shaaban, and froze any assets she might have in the US.

According to State Department spokesman, Victoria Nuland, who two US Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers speculate may view Dr. Shaaban as a rival of sorts given their job descriptions, and Dr. Shaaban’s stellar performances during meetings with US officials both in the US and Syria, the explanation for blacklisting a Syrian nationalist and media advisor remains: “She (Dr. Shaaban) has served as the public mouthpiece for the repression of the regime.”

No US official to date has stepped forward to defend the sanctions against Dr. Shaaban with any more substantive or detailed complaint or supporting evidence.

Theodore Kattouf, former US ambassador to Syria was reportedly astonished to see Dr. Shaaban’s name on the latest sanctions list and he expressed on television his regret for such a bad decision. Former Ambassador Kattouf explained that sanctioning Dr.Shaaban was a serious mistake because Dr. Shaaban is well known of her positive and constructive attitudes and positions against wars and injustices and bloodshed.

True, Dr. Shaaban, among several others, is a trusted advisor to the Syrian administration. She presumably offers counsel and insights; perhaps much like Theodore Sorenson did for President John Kennedy, and Bill Moyers for Lyndon Johnson. But she is not and has never been a decision maker. Presumably her advice is considered, but who knows to what degree. Which advisor is also a key decision maker?

Surely the Obama administration knows well that when any person occupies a position as media advisor or even press secretary, he/she speaks for and explains the policy of the administration he's working for. To sanction them violates American notions and values of freedom of expression and immunity from harassment for performing a vital job that benefits all by way of clear understanding and communication of a country’s position on political, social, and economic issues of the day.

Dr. Shaaban’s background is well known to recent US administrations and also much appreciated according to Washington sources.  She is known as an independent thinker, reformer, writer, University Professor (she taught in Eastern Michigan for two years and earned her PhD from Warwick University in the UK and was a Fulbright Scholar at Duke University (1990-1991) and received prestigious McCandless Professorship at Eastern Michigan University for 2000. She is known for her ability and willingness to take a minority position, if her evaluation of the facts of a case or issue leads her there, and is never reluctant to speak truth to power.  Her writings, many of which have appeared in the left of center Counterpunch ( always advance positions against wars, violence and occupation.

The Obama administration knows that Dr. Shaaban has no account in the US, earns a modest salary, is the wife of the manager of the Syrian Estabishment for Food Indurstry and this 'sanction' is designed solely to harm her excellent reputation that she has earned during the past couple of decades. When pressed for details of her assets both the US Treasury, and State Department spokeswoman Nuland only offered: “Let’s just leave it at that.”, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Dr. Shaaban’s office avers that she has very few assets at all and certainly none in the US.

“Bouthainia connects with people” according to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer who has met with her: “Whether with Hamas or Saudi Princes, and both know her views on full rights for women and justice for Palestinians, and with American officials too she is effective.”

For some of these reasons the US treasury and State departments have targeted her and the Obama administration, largely it appears, out of ignorance, according to Congressional sources, said, “Ok, if you think is a good idea go ahead.”

It was not a good idea. Attacking Mrs. Shabaan is a low blow and disgraceful by any standards and especially for one who is a very positive force helping bridge several divides between East and West.

President Obama erred in signing off on this mistake.

On losing her father last May, Dr. Shabaan wrote to an American friend, words that reflect both Syrian and American values and says something about this scholar and humanist.


Dear Franklin, “I was so touched with your message of condolences; it was so kind of you. Thank you very much. I was fortunate enough to look after my ailing mother for 7 years and after my father for the same period and then for a year and a half before the passing away of my father. I would like to say this is the most important and the most valuable and pleasurable thing I have ever done.

As Muslims we are requested in the Holy Quran to look after our aging parents and never to say a word to them that may hurt their feelings and this comes as second in importance only to believing in God and worshipping Him. In this sense I believe no parents should be sent to senior homes as their most desperate need is for love and affection and not only for food and bread I am so comforted that they lived happily and with integrity and I was an instrument to that. I want to write more about this very important aspect of human life in the future.

Thank you so much again and hope to see you soon in Syria.

Best wishes,

Bouthaina Shaaban


The White House attacked a friend of America and of all people of good will. It needlessly assaulted a symbol of the great country of Syria, the great Syrian people, their history, culture, resistance values, profound dignity, and their decency.

In so doing the Obama Administration sullied American values and doubtless does not represent American values or the will of the American people. It did undermine American values of freedom of expression and compromised American notions of fair play and American legal norms of substantial justice.

Would that President Obama will immediately reverse this ill-considered action.

Franklin Lamb is reachable c/o


Dr. Franklin Lamb is Director of the Sabra Shatila Foundation. Contact him at: He is working with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign in Lebanon on drafting legislation which, after 62 years, would, if adopted by Lebanon’s Cabinet and Parliament grant the right to work and to own a home to Lebanon’s Palestinian Refugees. One part of the PCRC legislative project is its online Petition which can be viewed and signed at: Lamb is reachable at Franklin Lamb’s book on the Sabra-Shatila Massacre, International Legal Responsibility for the Sabra-Shatila Massacre, now out of print, was published in 1983, following Janet’s death and was dedicated to Janet Lee Stevens. He was a witness before the Israeli Kahan Commission Inquiry, held at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in January 1983.

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You know who you are September 6, 2011 6:40 pm (Pacific time)

She is being screwed over, wrongfully so by the The US treasury and State departments. You can not hang around and sulk about this. You have to take action fast before they completely cover it up on a mile high mountain of paper work, to abscond there tracks on doing something that is obviously an abuse to there powers (they do have laws for that as well). Large Law firms that take on such tasks as this will draw much negative publicity, something the The US treasury and State departments do NOT want. P.S. Nice trick by the way with the title of the link ;)

You know who you are September 6, 2011 5:43 pm (Pacific time)

Apparently this Law firm has been successful in suing anything that is related to the government, including the US Treasury. They have taken on people cases that are of non residents to the United States, including people from other countries that have got screwed over by Government related issues. I think she should try contacting them:
What's the emergency? Ambiguity over repealing Tamil Tiger-era draconian regulations betrays Sri Lanka president's reluctance to relinquish power.

Anonymous September 6, 2011 2:27 pm (Pacific time)

Colli, no one cares about the right things anymore, Americans are living in fear and there is little hope, but thanks for your thoughts, I agree!

COLLI September 5, 2011 7:55 pm (Pacific time)

WOW - it appears that if we have a large enough or important enough audience, those of us who speak out against the Israeli apartheid may expect Zionist storm troopers at our door as well. The bankers reach is far indeed and their touch is poisonous to all who value truth and justice.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.