News / Middle East

US Diplomat: Syrian Upheaval has Changed Country Forever

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Tamara Wittes (undated photo)
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Tamara Wittes (undated photo)

A top U.S. diplomat said Wednesday that protests in Syria and the government’s deadly crackdown have changed that country forever, and that a return to stability is possible only through a transition to democracy and reform.  

For more than two months, unarmed protesters in Syria have demonstrated against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, demanding a more responsive and democratic government.

"The response of the Syrian regime, of course, has been one of murder and mass arrests," said Tamara Wittes Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. State Department.  She told an audience at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that change in Syria is inevitable.   

“Things in Syria have changed irrevocably," she said. "There is no going back.  One way or another, the Syrian government’s relationship with its people, the Syrian nation’s relationship with the region, is never going to be the same.”

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more have been arrested since the protests began in mid-March.  

In a major speech last week, U.S. President Barack Obama called on President Assad to lead the transition to democracy or “get out of the way.”

The Syrian government has blamed the unrest on armed gangs and foreign agitators.

Wittes disagrees. “There is no foreign conspiracy here, as some in Syria might claim," said Wittes. "There is no external generator.  What you see in Syria is what you are seeing across the region, driven by the same indigenous trends and forces that are driving change elsewhere in the region.”

Wittes said the Syrian government must stop the violence against peaceful protestors and allow people to exercise their basic political rights.

She said President Assad must release the detainees and stop mass arrests.

“There are those who would argue that what is happening in Syria right now is a threat to regional stability and that people in the region are anxious about instability in Syria, especially should Assad leave office," she said. "I think it is very important to note that it is the Syrian regime here that is the generator of instability in their response to what is taking place.  They are fomenting violence and fomenting danger.”

Wittes said the only way to achieve true stability is through a process of democratic change and reform.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on President Assad and other senior Syrian officials, freezing all assets under American and EU jurisdiction.

Wittes said that unless there is a transition to democracy in Syria, the Assad government will continue to be challenged from within the country and face escalating pressure from other nations.

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

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs