News / USA

US, Europe Call for Syria’s Assad to 'Step Aside'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, center, after at the end of the second day closing session of the Arab League Summit in Sirte, Libya, (file photo)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, center, after at the end of the second day closing session of the Arab League Summit in Sirte, Libya, (file photo)

The United States and its key European allies on Thursday made a coordinated call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, after he ignored appeals to end a brutal five-month crackdown on protestors.  The U.S. appeal for regime change is coupled with far-reaching sanctions against the Damascus government, including a ban on imports of Syrian oil.

President Barack Obama began the diplomatic effort with a written statement condemning the Syrian leader for “ferocious brutality” against democracy protestors, including what, he called, “disgraceful” attacks on cities like Hama and Deir al-Zour.

Mr. Obama said President Assad’s calls for dialogue and reform have “rung hollow” as he imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered his own people.  He said that for the sake of the Syrian people, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirmed the call in a press appearance here.

“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.

Soon after the U.S. announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a joint statement that by resorting to brutal military force against his own people, Mr. Assad “has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country.”

The Obama administration had been poised to make the call for regime change earlier this month, but reportedly delayed action pending final reform appeals to President Assad from Arab states and neighboring Turkey -- calls that went unanswered.

Secretary Clinton, who helped orchestrate the U.S.-European action, said the allies are not trying to dictate a resolution of the crisis.

“We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes," she said. "At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspiration for a Syria that is democratic, just and inclusive.”

The new sanctions announced by President Obama sharply expand on punitive measures targeted at the Syrian leader and his inner circle.  An executive order by the president freezes all Syrian government assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and it bans U.S. imports of Syrian petroleum products.  If as expected, the move is matched by the European Union on Friday, it will severely affect what has been the main driver Syria's economy.  

Syria expert Andrew Tabler of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy says the U.S. action makes dealings in Syrian oil politically risky for European and other companies.

“It forces a lot of their companies to make a choice," said Tabler. "Do they continue their relatively small Syrian business or purchases of Syrian crude, or do they maintain their relationship with the United States?  These kinds of sanctions push those companies into those kind of dilemmas.”

Analyst Ed Husain of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations says that calling on Mr. Assad to step down weakens opposition members who will now be seen as stooges of the United States.  He adds that Mr. Assad’s departure would trigger instability in a country that is a patchwork of ethnic alliances.

“It’s a country that is divided along sectarian lines hugely," said Husain. "And Assad’s party and Assad’s family - whether we like it [or not], it’s an ugly truth - have held that country together.  And they know if Assad falls, there will be a bloodbath between the Alawis and Druze, the other minorities as well as the Sunni majority.  And for those reasons, I think at least in the short term, Bashar al-Assad remains the least worst option.”

Omar al-Issawi, Middle East and North Africa Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch says that although his organization takes no position on the call for regime change, he hopes it will increase international pressure for accountability on Syrian human rights abuses.

“Our prime concern is for the [Syrian] regime to put an end to the very serious, grave, human rights violations that have been taking place against overwhelmingly peaceful protestors," said al-Issawi. "We hope that the authorities in Syria follow up on the declaration of President Assad yesterday, when he said military operations have stopped.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on Syria on Monday in Geneva.  

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs