CIHRS stresses that "saving the country from violence and avoiding the
Libyan or Yemeni scenario of armed conflict, which threatens wide-scale
civil war, require the Syrian regime to exercise the utmost responsibility
toward its people and to immediately adopt serious, far-reaching measures
that respond to the aspirations and sacrifices made by Syrians to achieve
At the end of April, Pres. Barrack Obama signed an Executive Order
imposing sanctions against Syrian officials and others. He said, "The United
States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the
Syrian government against demonstrators. This outrageous use of violence
to quell protests must come to an end now. We regret the loss of life and our
thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and with the
Syrian people in this challenging time."
Obama went on to say, "The Syrian Government's moves yesterday to
repeal Syria's decades-old Emergency Law and allow for peaceful
demonstrations were not serious given the continued violent repression
against protesters today.
"Over the course of two months since protests in Syria began, the United
States has repeatedly encouraged President Assad and the Syrian
Government to implement meaningful reforms, but they refuse to respect the
rights of the Syrian people or be responsive to their aspirations.
"The Syrian people have called for the freedoms that all individuals around
the world should enjoy: freedom of expression, association, peaceful
assembly, and the ability to freely choose their leaders.
"President Assad and the Syrian authorities have repeatedly rejected their
calls and chosen the path of repression. They have placed their personal
interests ahead of the interests of the Syrian people, resorting to the use of
force and outrageous human rights abuses to compound the already
oppressive security measures in place before these demonstrations erupted.
"Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming
outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens
through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies. We
call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own
"We strongly oppose the Syrian government's treatment of its citizens and
we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally,
including support for terrorism and terrorist groups. The United States will
continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human
beings deserve, in Syria and around the world."
Though Syrian demonstrators would no doubt have welcomed Obama's
message much earlier, this would seem out of character with the step-by-step
carefully calibrated messages the President and his top people have been
delivering since it became apparent that The Arab Spring wasn't going away
any time soon.
The US had no overarching national interest in Tunisia; ergo, the message
welcoming the overthrow of that country's ruler of 30 years came relatively
quickly. Egypt was seen as a loyal and effective ally for many years; it had
its own peace treaty with Israel and had been helpful in brokering
agreements between Hamas and Fatah. So it appeared to some to be taking
forever for the president to, as they say, throw Mr. Mubarak under the bus --
albeit that the Saudis are miffed because they think Obama did this much too
And it is largely out of deference to the Saudis -- suppliers of 12 per cent of
our oil -- that the US has not spoken out more forcefully against the brutal
repression of Bahrain's Shi'ite majority by the Sunni minority headed by the
king and the royal family. In Yemen, where the US has a vital national
interest in the form of AlQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the US has helped
broker a deal for the current president to step down.
But the Syrian situation is every bit as complex as any of the other Arab
Spring sites. Mostly Sunni Syria has reached out to mostly Shi'ite Iran to
arm Hamas and Hizbollah. Syria sits dangerously close to Israel and the two
countries have been mortal enemies for years. And Syria exerts enormous
influence in Lebanon, sitting on Israel's northern border.
So one might have expected Obama to walk as gingerly among the Syrians
as among, say, the Egyptians or the Bahrainis. Better the devil you know,
would have been the reasoning.
That he didn't -- that he couldn't -- so reason is a work of self-destruction by
Mr. Assad. Even in this time when the US is learning again how to balance
the national interest with realpolitik, the unspeakable brutality, the total
blindness, of some nations -- no matter how influential -- reaches a point
where silence is no longer an option..
I'm happy we have reached that point with Syria. I wish we could summon
the courage to do the same with Bahrain.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).