News / Middle East

US Denies Trying to Undermine Syrian Government

A Syrian protester flashes the victory sign during a protest calling for President Bashar Assad to step down in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, April 17, 2011.
A Syrian protester flashes the victory sign during a protest calling for President Bashar Assad to step down in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, April 17, 2011.

The United States on Monday denied working to undermine the Syrian government, but it acknowledged trying to strengthen civil society groups there.  The comments followed a press report suggesting that U.S. funds had gone directly to Syrian opposition factions.

State Department officials say U.S. efforts to build up civil society in Syria are similar to programs underway in other countries, but that the difference is that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad perceives them as subversive.

The comments came in response to a Washington Post  report on Monday citing leaked U.S. diplomatic cables as saying that the State Department has been secretly financing Syrian opposition groups.

The newspaper said it received the cables from the activist Website WikiLeaks, whose disclosure of apparent U.S. diplomatic cables since late last year has complicated U.S. relations with several countries.

The leaked documents are said to have asserted that U.S. money has been channeled to Barada TV, a cable outlet set up by Syrian exiles with close ties to the London-based anti-Assad Movement for Justice and Development.

At a news briefing, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner repeated the Obama administration’s policy of refusing comment on the authenticity of the alleged leaked documents.

But he said the United States, which maintains diplomatic relations with Syria, is not trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. "We are not working to undermine that government.  What we’re trying to do in Syria, through our civil society support, is to build the kind of democratic institutions, frankly, that we’re trying to do in countries around the globe," he said.

Toner likened the Syria program to U.S. help to civil society and non-governmental organizations in Eastern Europe in the 1990s.  But he said the difference is that the Assad government, "sees this kind of assistance as a threat to its existence."

The State Department says it has allocated more than $7 million to civil society-building programs in Syria since 2005, although The Washington Post said leaked cables indicate that the spending is considerably more.

The Obama administration came into office advocating engagement with the Syrian government and returned a U.S. ambassador to Damascus for the first time since 2005.

But in recent days, the United States has become increasingly critical of the Syrian government’s harsh treatment of demonstrators.

Toner said Monday that the demonstrations were "legitimate protests in the face of years of oppressive governance by the Assad regime" and that it is incumbent on the Damascus government to address the "universal aspirations of their people."

He stopped short of calling for a transition of power in Syria, saying that it is up to the people of the country to dictate the pace and scope of reform.

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

You May Like

US Storm Falls Short of Severe Predictions, Yet Affects Millions

Governors of several East Coast states close schools, order travel bans, urge people to stay home as snowfall, heavy winds, flooding continue in areas More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle with Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people were displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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