Reuters correspondent Mark Hosenball got early word that the White House was going to slap additional sanctions on Syria including on the brother and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials then told White House correspondent Matt Spetalnick that President Barack Obama had signed an executive order for sanctions today, showing that no Syrian official was “immune” from repercussions if the violence against protesters didn’t stop.

A not-so-veiled message was that while President Assad was not on the list, that shoe could drop too if the crackdown did not end. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 48 civilians were killed in pro-democracy demonstrations today.

Sanctions make a statement and are usually the first course of action after verbal condemnation fails. But whether they have any lasting impact is an open question. And the Obama administration is still using far less of a stick with Assad than it has with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

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US slaps new sanctions on Syria over crackdown

The United States slapped sanctions on Syria’s intelligence agency and two relatives of President Bashar al-Assad in Washington’s first concrete steps in response to a bloody crackdown on protests. Assad, Syria’s long-serving ruler, was not among those targeted under an order signed by President Obama but could be named soon if violence by government forces against democracy protesters continues, a senior U.S. official said.