News / Middle East

Clinton Says Syria’s Assad 'Not Indispensable'

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures while speaking at the State Department in Washington, Monday, July 11, 2011, during her meeting with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures while speaking at the State Department in Washington, Monday, July 11, 2011, during her meeting with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sharpened U.S. criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after pro-government mob attacks Monday on the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.  Clinton said the Syrian leader has “lost legitimacy,” and should not see himself as indispensable to the country’s future.  

The comments by Clinton reflect the growing tensions in bilateral relations after the embassy incidents, in which pro-government Syrian protestors scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy and ambassador’s residence, and caused damage at both.

There was a similar attack on the French embassy, turned back only after French guards fired warning shots.

The action is seen as Syrian retaliation for a visit last week by U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and his French counterpart Eric Chevallier to the city of Hama, a flashpoint for democracy protests with a long history of resistance to Assad family rule.

At a press event with EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton, Clinton toughened U.S. rhetoric toward the Syrian leader, saying among other things that he has lost legitimacy, accepted aid from Iran in repressing his own people, and should not count on being part of his country’s political future.

“If anyone, including President Assad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong," said Clinton. "President Assad is not indispensable, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.”

Clinton’s comments came after the Syrian charge d’affaires in Washington was called into the State Department to hear an official protest about the embassy incidents, which came despite a personal assurance by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallam to Ambassador Ford Sunday that security would be stepped up.

Syrian authorities were angered at the visits by Ford and his French colleague to Hama, with Syrian media accusing the U.S. diplomat of meeting with so-called “saboteurs” and instigating violence.

Clinton said the events are an effort by the Syrian leadership to divert attention away from its ongoing brutal response to anti-government protests, in which more than 1,000 civilians have been killed since March.

“The Assad regime will not succeed in deflecting the world’s attention from the real story unfolding in Syria," she said. "This is not about America or France or any other country. This is about the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people for dignity, universal rights and the rule of law.”

The events since Ford’s Hama visit last Thursday have put new focus on the veteran U.S. envoy, whose posting to Damascus early this year - as the first American ambassador there in six years - came despite heavy bipartisan criticism from Congress.

Robin Wright, a longtime diplomatic reporter and a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says Ford has one of the most complex assignments of any U.S. ambassador, with the trip to Hama a prime example.

“The United States wants to push for change but is clearly not going to take action like it has in Libya," said Wright. "But Ambassador Ford has done two imaginative things.  He went to Hama, in effect signaling American support for the right to free speech and free assembly, and also posted a pretty serious message on a Facebook page - basically challenging the regime for its actions against the U.S. embassy, and actions against its own citizens in places like Hama.”

Wright said that while Syrian officials have cast the embassy incidents as spontaneous acts by Syrians, the official inspiration for the attacks is “totally transparent,” and that it is “stunning” that Syrian authorities cannot grasp how crude the tactics appear to the outside world.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs