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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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