The State Department issued a message to Americans in Syria today: Get out while you still can. "The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens in Syria to depart immediately while commercial transportation is available," the travel warning reads. State also advises U.S. citizens who "must remain in Syria" to "limit nonessential travel within the country" and U.S. citizens not in Syria to "defer all travel to Syria at this time." The wording is very similar to the language used in a travel warning issued around the same time last month. Prior to that, State had ordered family members of U.S. government employees and some non-emergency embassy personnel to leave Syria back in April.
So why the new warning so shortly on the heels of the old--and nearly identical--one? It's mainly to give Americans a head's up that the U.S. has toughened its stance on President Bashar al-Assad's regime since its last travel advisory, calling on Assad to step aside and imposing additional sanctions against his government. Those sanctions "prohibit U.S. citizens or residents from making payments or providing any material support to the Government of Syria, providing services to Syria, or making new investments in Syria." That places Americans in Syria in a really dicey situation. Are they allowed to provide services in Syria or pay corporate taxes or licensing fees to the Syrian government? State says no in today's warning, but it adds that Americans should still pay personal taxes and living expenses like school fees and utility bills. State also says Americans may have a harder time withdrawing cash or using their U.S. credit cars under the new sanctions. Perhaps the complications will give Americans still in Syria the incentive to leave that the first warning didn't.