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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora