Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Assad Digs In Even As US Tells Him He's Got To Go

Syria's Bashar al Assad is nothing if not predictable. He's continuing the brutal crackdown against Syrians who have waged protests against his regime and the bodies are starting to stack up like so much cords of wood.

Not only that, but he's again claiming that the military is going after terrorists - that anyone his regime has killed are terrorists, not protesters waging peaceful protests. Facts and reality clearly don't converge here; multiple videos from the past few months show Assad's statements to be nothing but lies.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday his forces would continue to pursue "terrorist groups" after Turkey pressed him to end a military assault aimed at crushing protests against his rule.

Syria "will not relent in pursuing the terrorist groups in order to protect the stability of the country and the security of the citizens," state news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"But (Syria) is also determined to continue reforms ... and is open to any help offered by friendly and brotherly states."

While the two men held talks in Damascus, Syrian forces killed at least 30 people and moved into a town near the Turkish border, an activist group said.

The National Organization for Human Rights said most of the fatalities occurred when troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles overran villages north of Hama, while four were killed in Binnish, 30 km (20 miles) from the border with Turkey.
Meanwhile, the US is expected to toughen its stance against Assad, by formally calling for Assad to step aside:
The Obama administration is preparing to explicitly demand the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad and hit his regime with tough new sanctions, U.S. officials said Tuesday as the State Department signaled for the first time that American efforts to engage the government are finally over.

The White House is expected to lay out the tougher line by the end of this week, possibly on Thursday, according to officials who said the move will be a direct response to Assad's decision to step up the ruthlessness of the crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators by sending tanks into opposition hotbeds. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration deliberations.

President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials previously had said Assad has "lost legitimacy" as a leader and that he either had to spearhead a transition to democracy or get out of the way. They had not specifically demanded that he step down. The new formulation will make it clear that Assad can no longer be a credible reformist and should leave power, the officials said.
It took the Obama Administration long enough to get around to this position, but it's the right one - Assad has to go in order for there to be true reform in Syria. The Syrians are going to have to do this themselves as they aren't going to have NATO carry out military operations, and the US isn't going to unilaterally involve itself here either.

Thus far, the Syrian people haven't mobilized in a way that say the Libyans have. With Assad in full control over the military (he booted a top military commander, with reports claiming it was due to health reasons, but much more likely because he wasn't producing the kind of results Assad wanted), the situation is a stalemate between protesters who are showing a willingness to stand up and be counted against Assad and a military willing to murder its fellow citizens.

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