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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora