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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid