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Washington Week: US Renewing Focus on Syria

  • Michael Bowman

U.S. President Barack Obama is sharpening Washington’s focus on Syria after the breakdown of U.N.-mediated talks aimed at ending the country’s bloody civil war.

Diplomatic roadblocks are forcing the United States to reassess its approach to Syria. Obama honed in on some of the burning issues.

“There are going to be some immediate steps we have to take to help the humanitarian situation there. There will be some immediate steps we can take to apply more pressure to the Assad regime, and we are going to be taking a look with all the parties concerned to try to move forward on a diplomatic solution,” said Obama.

The U.S. president spoke after U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said days of negotiations between the Syrian government and a rebel coalition deadlocked over a transitional authority to rule Syria in a post-Assad era.

“I think it is better that every side goes back and reflects and takes responsibility. Do they want this [peace] process to take place or not?” - asked Brahimi.

Government and rebel representatives traded accusations over the impasse. Meanwhile, bloodletting in Syria continues.

U.S. lawmakers are taking note of the carnage. Senator John McCain is demanding a stronger U.S. response.

“Where is the President Obama who has said he refuses to accept that brutal tyrants can slaughter their people with impunity, while the most powerful nation in the history of the world looks on and stands by? Where is our outrage, where is our shame?” – asked McCain.

The Republican senator has long advocated establishing a no-fly zone over Syria and arming rebel groups not linked to al-Qaida.

“It is true that our options to help end the conflict in Syria were never good, and they are certainly worse and fewer now. But no one should believe we are without options even now,” said McCain.

White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to the senator's comments.

“I am not sure what exactly he is advocating; if he is advocating a U.S. invasion of Syria? I do not know. Is he advocating a bombing campaign?” – asked Carney.

The administration has ruled out deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.

Carney said diplomacy remains the best hope for peace in Syria, stressing that the Obama administration will hold the Assad government responsible for what he termed “the brutality it has inflicted on the Syrian people.”

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