As Barack Obama, David Cameron, and numerous other world leaders have stated, the question as to the fate of the Syrian regime is when it will fall, and not if. Having killed over 9,000 of its citizens and with much of the country a battlefield between government forces and the Free Syrian opposition, the regime should no longer be considered the legitimate rulers of Syria.
The American, British, French and numerous other world governments have already imposed strict sanctions in an attempt to weaken the regime. Now, foreign companies operating inside of Syria should participate and further strengthen efforts to isolate the al-Assad regime by closing their stores, ending their investments, and leaving Syria entirely.
The problem with sanctions is that even when successful, it is the people who often feel their effects the most. Yet despite the harm sanctions can have on a largely innocent population, such economic pressures are necessary in undermining a murderous regime.
Sure, closing a few KFCs or Cinnabons wouldn't hurt Al-Assad much, but if foreign companies vacated Syria en mass, it would have a serious impact not just economically, where the government would be losing key revenue at a time when the economy is teetering on the verge of collapse, but also psychologically as well.
An end to all Western foreign investment, a shuttering of Western hotels, and the closing of Western chains and stores would send a strong message to ordinary Syrians and the regime alike that if support for Al-Assad continues and the regime goes unchecked, Syria will continue on its path towards isolation as a pariah state.
Such a stance may also convince many local businessmen, employees of those franchises, and connoisseurs of Western products and foods that the Assad regime is not only morally bankrupt, but cannot provide for them anymore. With Syria dangerously split along sectarian lines, economic incentives will be a key unifying factor in preventing further fracturing of the country.
As more and more Western franchises go under, struggle to stay open, and are unable to safeguard their employees, the argument for leaving Syria only increases. Why show even taciturn support by staying in a country led by a brutal dictator when it doesn't make financial sense to do so?
Should KFC, Cinnabon, or United Colors of Benneton pull out from Syria, it is not as if they would lose market share to Iranian or Chinese equivalents while they were away.
The longer Western companies and investors remain in Syria, the longer they continue to prop up the false image that commerce and life should continue as normal and the longer the regime will continue to slaughter the opposition in their protracted fight for survival.
Government sanctions may work, but it is often companies and big business that can deal a crushing blow to a regime's survival. It is time Western companies take a stand and end their complicity in propping up a corrupt regime and leave Syria until the Al-Assad regime is no longer in power.