Obama Under Pressure to Act on Syria

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Over the last two weeks Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised reform, however, on Friday, protesters made clear that they want nothing short of Assad’s departure with demonstrations across the country drew the largest numbers yet. In parts of the country, especially Damascus and Aleppo, security forces responded violently, leaving as many as 20 dead.

Although the EU did issue a new round of sanctions , the international community has responded timidly to the situation in Syria. The most powerful statement yet from inside the US government came on Thursday from Representative Chabot of Ohio when he unequivocally said, “Bashar must go.” As the violence mounts and the possibility of true reform dwindles, Obama is coming under more pressure to act decisively. Below is compilation of articles (dating back to last week) related to the Obama’s slow response:

Washington Post: More brutality in Syria and passivity in Washington

And Mr. Obama? His administration again failed to take significant action in pursuit of what he said would be “a top priority.” A week ago State Department officials summoned reporters to say that they were considering several initiatives, including targeting Syria’s energy exports and referring the regime’s crimes to the International Criminal Court. But no moves have been announced.

Instead, Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have been calling their counterparts in Turkey, a country whose foreign policy has sharply diverged from that of the United States in recent years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the Syrian repression, but he has also pursued a policy of courting Mr. Assad in recent years. Turkey pressed Syria to end the military operation along the border, but its foreign minister suggested Friday that Syria’s crisis could still be ended through reforms led by the dictator.

Los Angles Times: In Syria, Assad must go

The administration has assiduously avoided making such a declaration. In May, Obama said that Assad could either lead the transition to democracy or “get out of the way.” Then, in an executive order approving sanctions against Assad and his inner circle, Obama said he wanted to “‘increase pressure on the government of Syria to end its use of violence and begin transitioning to a democratic system that ensures the universal rights of the Syrian people.” After Assad’s latest speech, a State Departmentspokeswoman said, “What is important now is action, not words.”

All of these statements assume that it is not too late for Assad to lead Syria to a more democratic and pluralist society. But that scenario is improbable at best. Change in Syria will require change at the top.

CNN: Obama can’t lead from ‘lead from behind’ on Syria

After my release I supported the Obama administration’s cautious stance on the Syrian revolution. I applauded the president’s willingness to consider all options. However, recent developments have made it clear that Assad’s opportunity to institute real reform is gone. His speech Monday was merely confirmation. Unfortunately, President Obama still clings to a “lead from behind” policy that does not reflect the realties on the ground.

Hillary Clinton’s recent op-ed in Asharq Alawsat, stating that the Syrian regime is “certainly not indispensable,” represented an escalation of rhetoric, but failed to adequately shift policy. It is now in America’s moral and national interest to decisively guide the international community toward a future without Assad.

Obama no longer has the luxury of fouling off every pitch and waiting for someone else to make a move — it’s game time. Stepping to the plate does not mean mounting a Libya-style invasion. It involves peacefully hastening Assad’s exit.

NPR: The Price of Doing Nothing in Syria (with guests Deborah Amos and P.J. Crowley)

AMOS: Syria doesn’t respond to outside pressure. That is one of the hallmarks of the regime. In fact, the more pressure there is, the more they say I’m sorry, but we don’t reform under pressure. And that may have been part of the point of that speech yesterday.

CONAN: And what about the resistance? Has it managed to coalesce? Has it formed a coherent organization?

AMOS: Not as much as I think they would like. There was a meeting in Turkey a few weeks ago, and for the first time, you saw all kinds of Syrian dissidents come together and talk about a program. They came up with a very good program in about 48 hours, which was remarkable to watch that happen, and these are some long-time dissidents, a couple of young people who had been involved in organizing protests on the ground, managed to come across the border and work there.

What they said, is that it’s the insiders that are the real leadership of this protest movement, these organizations called the local coordinating committees. They work on Facebook. They talk on Skype in the evening. They coordinate with each other. They decide when the protests will be, where they will be, what the chants will be, what they’ll be called on Friday.

CONAN: And outside pressure, there’s been a measured response from the Obama administration thus far. Is there a price for doing nothing?

CROWLEY: I think the credibility of the United States is really on the line now in Syria. The stated position from the president is that Assad needs to lead a transition or get out of the way. But we’re seeing the real Syrian regime. It’s not going to lead a transition that would put itself out of business

CONAN: Yet the Arab League, there are some states apparently raising questions about what’s going on in Syria, but it seems unlikely to be unanimous on this point regarding Syria, and the Russians and the Chinese, as Deb mentioned, have been against any resolution in the Security Council.

CROWLEY: Certainly and all true. This is hard. The Assad regime is going to resist for as long as it can. But as we continue through this Arab spring, I think it’s important for the United States to not only say that its policy is to support, you know, political, economic and social reform but actually to put actions, you know, behind that policy statement.

It is vitally important that as we go through this, the United States makes clear that for those leaders who decide to work with reformers and change their countries, they will have the support of the United States and others. But for those leaders, from Gadhafi to Saleh to Assad who choose to resist, who choose to turn, you know, state-sponsored violence against their own people that there should be consequences, as well.


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