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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid