Home inContext As Arab States Leave Syria, U.S. Remains

As Arab States Leave Syria, U.S. Remains

Samara Greenberg

Finally, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is losing his friends. As the Syrian regime ignores world condemnation and continues to crush its 5-month-old uprising – more than 300 people were killed over the last week alone and an estimated 2,400 in total – the Arab World is starting to leave its side. This week, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah broke his silence and recalled his ambassador from Damascus. Soon thereafter, Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit and recalled their envoys. Qatar was the first to recall its ambassador and close its embassy in July.

Even Turkey has taken a hard stance against Syria as of late. On Saturday, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara’s patience was running thin. Erdogan also sent his foreign minister to Damascus on Tuesday to tell Asad that Turkey is ready to join the international measures against him unless he stops the bloodshed and introduces reforms. Ankara’s words have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, however, as an editorial published in the ruling Baath Party’s newspaper the same day as the meeting said the Asad regime is hopeful that “Turkey and the Gulf Arab nations will ‘quickly correct their stands’.”

Syrian anti-government demonstrators marching on August 5.

Meanwhile, last Friday, the Obama administration sent Washington’s ambassador Robert Ford back to Syria, according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, to boost U.S. efforts to end the crackdown and facilitate a democratic transition. And on Monday, Toner stated that Washington is “encouraged” by the Arab countries’ tough stand against Syria.

This policy coming out of Washington is completely misguided. The world’s greatest democracy should not be encouraged by autocrats’ policies, it should encourage them. Moreover, hosting a U.S. ambassador is a right that must be earned by a country. Washington will have plenty of time to facilitate a democratic transition in Syria after the Asad regime steps down, which it will not do without international pressure led by the United States. With Ambassador Ford’s return to Damascus, the United States under the Obama administration has once again taken a back seat in pushing a real democratic transition on one of the Middle East’s most brutal regimes.