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

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

Multimedia Ten Migrants Drown in Mediterranean, 4,800 Rescued

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen 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.
Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalistsi
X
May 04, 2015 3:32 PM
Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs