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America’s New Tone on Syria?

Lauren Stone

Since the uprisings against the Syrian regime began months ago, the United States has hesitated to call for measures that would put an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s rule. Today the number of demonstrators killed by Syrian authorities is more than 1,600.

The official change in tone from the Obama administration came when earlier this week, protesters supporting the Syrian regime attacked the U.S. and French embassy in Syria. They smashed several windows, drew graffiti over the walls, and replaced both of the nation’s flags with the Syrian flag. Although no embassy personnel were injured, the actions carried out by the protesters were condemned by the Obama administration.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that President Asad has “lost his legitimacy” adding that he is, “not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.” The White House has been weary of taking action against the government, unlike its decision to attack the Gaddafi regime in Libya. In a speech earlier in the week, President Obama stated that the United States will take “whatever actions necessary” to protect its missions overseas.

Barack Obama’s latest remarks, however, may not be as drastic of a change in policy as currently panned in media outlets throughout the United States. “You’re seeing President [Asad] lose legitimacy in the eyes of his people,” Obama explained in a CBS interview on Tuesday. “He has missed opportunity after opportunity to present a genuine reform agenda. And that’s why we’ve been working at an international level to make sure we keep the pressure up.” This means that the Obama administration is applying pressure with the belief that Asad can still produce reforms, as opposed to applying pressure to have his regime step aside. That Asad’s regime is illegitimate has been manifest since it first seized power in a coup four decades ago.

It has taken the U.S. too long to take even a minimal stand against the regime in Damascus. It is not enough to press for reform. President Obama should call for Asad to step down and direct American efforts in that direction.