President Obama today finally called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit. He also announced new sanctions designed to increase the pressure on the regime.
What’s hard to understand is why, if calling for Assad to get out is a good idea today, it wasn’t a good idea four months ago. In the interim, thousands have been killed and wounded, and the United States has bolstered its reputation for effeteness on the world stage.
Why was there ever an assumption that Assad, whose family has been in the murder and repression racket for years, would ever lead some kind of peaceful transition to a new form of government?
Anyway, as he was with Libya, Obama is a dollar short and a day late. Too bad.
Here are some excerpts from the statement Obama released this morning.
The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.
The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.
As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people. I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria. This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others.