News / USA

US Officials Detail Background to Syria Policy Announcement

Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses a meeting for the central committee of the Baath party in Damascus, August 17, 2011
Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses a meeting for the central committee of the Baath party in Damascus, August 17, 2011

After the United States and other major powers called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, senior Obama administration officials spoke with reporters about the significant change in approach. 

Officials say the coordinated actions were the culmination of months of steadily increased pressure on the Syrian leader, including statements condemning the use of violence against civilians, and calls for President Bashar al-Assad to lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.

President Barack Obama discussed the Syria situation, including a rise in violence during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

They said Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in a conversation on August 13 that more aggressive actions were needed.

At the same time there were close consultations with key regional players, including Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, and with key Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and others in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

A senior administration official called the U.S. partnership with Turkey regarding Syria extremely important, given Turkey's long-standing relationship with Syria's government, adding the two countries will remain in close touch going forward.

Officials addressed a number of questions from reporters after the calls by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, and the European Union for President Assad to leave power, including what the United States and allies would do if the latest steps do not bring about his departure.

The officials said President Obama's executive order is designed to choke off additional resources the Syrian government could use to extend its crackdown on civilians, and deepen the international isolation of Syria's leadership.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about actions being taken. "His Executive Order immediately freezes all assets of the government of Syria that are subject to American jurisdiction, and prohibits American citizens from engaging in any transactions with the government of Syria or investing in that country," she said.

Officials also responded to a question about the comparison between Syria and President Obama's handling of political upheaval in Egypt earlier this year, with one reporter noting Obama's fairly rapid call last February for former President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Asked whether the option of military action was being removed from the table, an official said he did not think anybody views this as the "desired course".  The simplest way to move to a democratic transition, the official added, is for President Assad to step aside.

One official said the U.S. response to the so-called Arab Spring has been consistent - condemning violence, upholding universal rights and calling for political and economic reforms - but the United States recognized that each country would change in its own way.

The official said relationships that could be used as leverage differed in each country, noting that in Egypt the United States was able to issue an early statement for Mubarak to leave power, and had close contacts with Egyptian counterparts on how they responded to events.

Obama administration officials also commented on what impact a potential Assad departure could have on Syria's role in the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Saying the U.S. remains committed broadly-speaking to the peace process but has no investment in any individual's particular involvement in it, one official said President Assad's ability to be at all a figure in that are "long gone."

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

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