After years of hoping President Bashar al-Assad would fulfil his repeated pledges to implement political reforms, the U.S. has finally given up.
According a report in today’s New York Times, the Obama administration is shifting from its erstwhile ambiguous support for the Assad regime, and will probably announce in the next few days that he should step down.
“If anyone, including President Assad, thinks the United States is secretly hoping that the regime will emerge from the turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday. “President Assad is not indispensable, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.”
President Barack Obama signaled a similar shift in an interview with CBS yesterday. “You’re seeing President Assad lose legitimacy in the eyes of his people,” Obama said. “He has missed opportunity after opportunity to present a genuine reform agenda.”
The shift comes after a seemingly state-sanctioned attack on the French and American embassies in Damascus Monday morning, which was itself in response to a visit by U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford to the besieged city of Hama late last week.
In an interview with Business Insider before the embassy attack, Professor David Lesch of Trinity University, a expert on the Syrian regime, said Ford’s trip to Hama was a “warning shot” to the Syrian regime, a possible prelude to the U.S. calling outright for the end of the Assad regime.
The abandonment of the Assad regime signals an increasing reliance on the Turkish government, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to be the purveyor of American interests in Syria.
The Middle East scholar Barry Rubin writes on his blog today that this might not be such a good idea, as the Islamist-tinged Erdogan government will probably favour installing an Islamist-tinged government in post-Assad Syria.
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