Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain recalled their envoys from Damascus following the Arab League’s condemnation of the ongoing violence in Syria. Calling the violence “unacceptable,” the League echoed the UN Security Council statement issued last Wednesday condemning “the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians” by Assad’s repressive regime. Although statements condemning Assad are nothing new, those that lead to action are, sadly, a novelty in this ongoing episode.
Throughout the conflict, the White House has issued statement after statement denouncing the violence without calling for Assad to step down. In April, the White House began by condemning “in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators” and stated that the “outrageous use of violence … must come to an end now.” By May, statements announced that “the United States and the international community will adjust their relations with Syria” and that “Syria’s deplorable actions toward its people warrant a strong international response.” July’s most recent statement stopped at emphasizing “the Syrian government’s use of violence and brutality against its own people … [which] demonstrate[s] the true character of the Syrian regime.”
Events unfolding in Syria provide Obama with an opportunity to show the world decisive political leadership. He should move beyond declarations and take a decisive stand against a leader whose regime has killed thousands and bolstered our enemies in Iran and Lebanon. The administration needs to call for an immediate end to Assad’s regime and take steps to bring that end closer.
The U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, should be recalled, as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has argued: Although Ford has criticized Assad, “the presence of any U.S. ambassador in Damascus has the net effect of legitimizing a regime that poses a serious threat to its own people and to U.S. national security, our interests, and our allies.” Congress should also pass the Syria Freedom Support Act (H.R. 2106), which strengthens sanctions against Assad’s regime and establishes programs to “support a transition to a democratically-elected government in Syria.”
Jeanna Diorio is an intern at AEI.