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

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs