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 On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid