After a “chilling” and “depressing” briefing from UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to the UN Security Council on events in Syria in the week since the council called for an "immediate" halt to the violence, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad continued his macabre crackdown on pockets of dissent, prompting new sanctions and the expectation that US President Obama will ask Assad to step down. By KHADIJA PATEL.
The United States has slapped financial sanctions on Syria’s largest state-owned bank and on its major cellphone company, raising speculation that US President Barack Obama is readying himself to call for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to step down. Obama will be briefed by the Turkish foreign minister who visited Assad in Damascus on Tuesday and will then decide whether to voice the strongest possible opposition to the Syrian leadership.
Obama is aware, however, of the potential pitfalls of Assad pointedly ignoring his call. If Obama does indeed call for him to step down, as he is expected to do, and Assad continues at the helm of the Syrian government unperturbed, as may well happen, the US will look significantly weaker in its ability to affect the outcomes of international politics. Its leader will be left with egg on his face.
There is little doubt that Obama & Co. understand the need to measure their words against the Syrian regime very, very carefully. Unless Obama is absolutely certain that Assad is in imminent danger of losing the Syrian presidency, it is far more likely that the White House will take the safer route, proclaiming Assad’s crackdowns as illegal and imposing further sanctions.
Meanwhile, in the face of stinging criticism from around the world, Assad’s crackdowns have continued unabated. On Thursday, Syrian Human Rights agencies claimed Syrian forces had killed at least five people and injured 16 others in an assault on two northern towns. Reports of casualties continue to be based entirely on the reports of rights agencies whose objectivity against Assad is skewed.
Assad, in a meeting with envoys from UN Security Council members Brazil, India and South Africa, admitted “some mistakes” were made by security forces early on in his campaign to stamp out dissent. And as the US and European states on the Security Council look for a UN resolution imposing wide scale sanctions against Damascus, Russia has continued to urge Assad to implement promised reforms as soon as possible. Russia and China, both with veto powers in the Council, have been backed by India, South Africa and Brazil, in opposition to UN-imposed sanctions. DM
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Photo: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets with new Defense Minister, General Daoud Rajha, in Damascus August 9, 2011. President al-Assad replaced his defense minister Monday, state television said. REUTERS/Sana/Handout
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