News / Middle East

US: Action, Not Words Needed from Syria’s Assad

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks in Damascus in this still image taken from video, June 20, 2011
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks in Damascus in this still image taken from video, June 20, 2011

U.S. officials say the international community, and more importantly the Syrian people, are growing weary of the Syrian leader’s promises and that what is needed are reforms and an end to what was called here Mr. Assad's “repulsive” crackdown on dissent.

In his third address since Syrian pro-democracy protests began four months ago, President Assad said he would invite 100 leading Syrian personalities to discuss constitutional reforms, with a one-month target for recommendations.

The Obama administration has called on the Syrian leader to enact reforms or step aside.

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said what is important now is “action, not words.”  She dismissed the Syrian leader’s suggestion that foreigners were largely behind the weeks of violence by security forces that has killed some 1,400 people.

“He spends a lot of time blaming foreign instigators, rather than appreciating that his own people are simply disgusted by a regime that supports itself through repression, corruption and fear," said Nuland. "We’d also note that the vast majority of those innocents killed in Syria were at the hands of security forces.”

Nuland said the interference the United States is concerned about in Syria is by Iran, and that the Assad government has “taken a page from the Iranian playbook” in crushing popular protests as Tehran did after disputed elections in 2009.

The European Union also expressed disappointment with Mr. Assad's speech and said it is preparing to expand its sanctions on Syria in response to the worsening violence.

The State Department's Victoria Nuland hinted of further U.S. sanctions, saying that Obama administration officials are working with U.S. allies on collecting data that might lead to war crimes prosecution of the Syrian leadership by the International Criminal Court, or ICC. She confirmed comments by unnamed U.S. officials last week that the United States is examining possible sanctions on Syria’s oil and gas industry.

Syrian oil production has declined in recent years, but its exports of nearly 400,000 barrels of oil per day are a major source of revenue for the government, especially with trade and tourism plunging because of the unrest.

Syria expert and journalist Andrew Tabler, a visiting scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says oil sanctions are more feasible than ICC action.

“They can lead an effort to target Syrian energy, which accounts for about a third of revenues for Syria. It accrues directly to the state. It wouldn’t hurt the Syrian people," said Tabler. "Pulling that off is hard without allies. But other allies in Europe and the Turks are on our side. The ICC indictment, because Syria is not a signatory, would require U.N. Security Council action."

Tabler added that "so far, the Russians and the Chinese have blocked Security Council operations. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the future, though,” he said.

The State Department said U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford traveled to northern Syria on Monday to try to get a first hand look at conditions in the area, where action by security forces has displaced thousands of civilians, many of whom have fled into Turkey.

Officials here say the U.S. envoy lately has been denied high-level meetings with government officials in Damascus, but has opened dialogue with a wide range of Syrian opposition figures.

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

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs