Efforts to freeze whatever money he does have access to have been hindered by lawsuits lodged by some of those who appear on sanctions lists, Russian and Chinese opposition, lack of intelligence resources, and perhaps even a policy to calibrate the amount of pressure on Assad to give him a path to exile.
"There's been a sense that at the end of the day it's not a lot of money, that it doesn't have a significant impact on the decision-making calculus of the leadership," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, though he said he did not know this was fact.
"The other operating theory is that - and this is potentially pretty cynical - if your goal is to get rid of Assad and there is an opportunity to get him to agree to step down, potentially you don't want to go after his assets because you want to be able to give him an escape route where he can end up in exile and enjoy the fruits of his despotic regime. 'Let's not squeeze him entirely'."
Another explanation may be psychological tactics, said Charles Crawford, a former British ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia/Montenegro and Poland who helped implement sanctions intended to topple late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. He said sanctions officials might want to list some regime hardliners but not others to stir up paranoia.
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