News / USA

Obama Tells Syria's Assad to Lead Transition or Leave

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech about United States' policy on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington, May 19, 2011.
US President Barack Obama delivers a speech about United States' policy on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington, May 19, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio

In his Middle East policy speech, President Barack Obama said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faces the choice of either leading a democratic transition in his country or getting out of the way.  The comment came a day after the U.S. administration imposed sanctions on the Syrian leader and key aides.

President Barack Obama's comments stopped short of an outright demand Syria's leader step down. But the remarks were another sign of diminishing U.S. patience with President Bashar al-Assad, whose reform promises have been contradicted by an ongoing brutal crackdown on protesters.

"The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy," said Obama.  "President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way.  The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests, release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests, they must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Daraa, and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition."

President Obama said Syria has followed its ally Iran and sought assistance from Tehran in what he termed the "tactics of suppression."  He said that speaks to the "hypocrisy of the Iranian regime," which he says professes support for the rights of protesters abroad, but suppresses its people at home.

On the eve of President Obama's speech, the administration announced new sanctions on Syria that for the first time directly target President Assad and key advisers.

The measures, which freeze any U.S. assets the Syrians may have and forbid U.S. business dealings with them, may have little immediate effect on al-Assad.

But analysts say the U.S. action has high symbolic value, and could lead to major hardship for the Syrian ruling circle if the European Union, as expected, follows the U.S. lead in expanding sanctions.

Middle East expert Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the Obama language is an "important step" toward a flat U.S. demand for Syrian regime change, and says it is highly unlikely that al-Assad will heed calls for reform.

"I think the more powerful message is that the administration has begun what is an almost-inexorable move toward calling on Assad to leave," Satloff explained.  "If the administration is indeed serious that the standard for Syria will be reform towards an open, democratic, human-rights-respecting government, or leave, I think it is absolutely improbable that Assad will meet that standard."

Satloff said whether or when U.S. policy moves to a demand for the president to step down depends largely on whether Syrian crowds continue to defy the regime.  Satloff added that said by personally targeting Assad in sanctions, the Obama administration may be testing whether the Syrian army or political elite might be inclined turn against the President.

In his address, President Obama said unless the Syrian leader starts a process for democratic transition, "his regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad."

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid