United States, acting in concert with major allies, has called for
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down after he ignored
international appeals to end a brutal five-month crackdown on
protesters. The appeal for regime change is coupled with far-reaching
U.S sanctions against the Damascus government.
The long-anticipated U.S. call for the departure of Assad came in a
written statement by President Barack Obama, in which he also announced
unprecedented sanctions against Syria that target its critical oil and
Obama condemned what he termed “ferocious brutality” by the Syrian
government, including what he termed “disgraceful” attacks on cities
like Hama and Deir al-Zour.
He said Assad’s calls for dialogue and reform have “rung hollow” as he
imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered his own people.
Support for Syria's people
The president said the Syrian leader has not led the democratic
transition sought by the world community and said for the sake of the
Syrian people, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
The President’s remarks were echoed by Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, who in a televised statement said while no outside power can or
should impose change in Syria, the country’s people should be able to
choose their own leaders in a democratic system based on the rule of
“The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity,
protects their rights and lives up to their aspirations," said Clinton.
"Assad is standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the
time has come for him to step aside and leave this transition to the
Syrians themselves, and that is what we will continue to work to
The Obama administration had been poised to make the outright call for
regime change earlier this month, but is understood to have delayed
action pending final reform appeals to Assad from Arab states and
neighboring Turkey - calls that went unanswered.
New sanctions, regional support
Clinton said earlier this week a U.S. demand for Assad’s departure was
less important than similar calls by regional powers like Turkey and
Saudi Arabia. She stressed in her statement that Washington does not
want to be seen as dictating Syrian affairs.
understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign
country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes.
At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspiration for a
Syria that is democratic, just and inclusive," said Clinton. "And we
will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressing the
regime and Assad personally to get out of the way of this transition.”
The new sanctions announced by Obama sharply expand punitive measures
already targeted on the Syrian leader and his inner circle. An executive
order by the president freezes all Syrian government assets subject to
U.S. jurisdiction, and bars U.S. citizens from business dealings with
the Damascus government.
The order also bans U.S. imports of Syrian petroleum products. If, as
expected, the move is matched by key European allies, it will severely
affect what has been the main support of the Syrian economy. Since the
violence began in March, tourism and other non-oil income for the
Damascus government has withered away.