After months of slowly ratcheting up the diplomatic rhetoric against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the United States may finally call on him to step down, the Associated Press reports. The explicit statement of support for Syria’s opposition movement could come as soon as this week.
According to Intelligence Daily, the decision to call for Assad’s resignation has been months in the making. The White House has been eager to to make the move, while the State Department has worried what might happen if—or, rather, when—Assad ignores the demand, which is likely.
Also today, the U.S. Treasury Department extended its sanctions against elements in the Syrian regime, freezing the assets of the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, the country’s largest financial institution, and Syriatel, its largest mobile phone operator, and banning U.S. companies from doing business with them.
The American government, which has previously said that Assad has “lost legitimacy” and that Syria would be better off if he left office, has nonetheless carefully avoided calling explicitly for regime change, fearing that the U.S. can ill afford either another war or the signal that Assad’s refusal would send about American impotence in the Middle East.
But with the death count in Syria at 2,000 and rising, and Assad showing no signs of yielding anytime soon, the U.S. has seemingly decided that it has no choice but to turn up the diplomatic heat, and hope for the best.