Senior administration officials characterized today’s announcement on Syria as part of a “completely united front” of U.S. allies coming after weeks of careful consultations over how and when to urge President Bashar al-Assad to go.
Officials said President Obama has been in regular contact with his counterparts in Europe and the Middle East, noting that he spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Aug. 5 and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Aug. 13, among others, to explicitly coordinate their announcements on Assad to have the strongest effect.
The officials also praised the “unusually strong role” of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Arab League in issuing similar statements condemning the Assad regime.
But with the new pressure on Assad, the administration faces questions as to why it’s taken five months to reach this point when, facing a similar situation in Egypt earlier this year, the president took one week to go before the cameras and demand President Hosni Mubarak, a close U.S. ally, leave his post.
Officials insist they’ve been consistent on U.S. values and goals from the beginning of the Arab Spring movement, but the contrast with respect to Syria has disappointed many activists and may add to the sense in the region that the U.S. has been slow and inconsistent responding to what have admittedly been unprecedented events.
Today Obama cautioned that it will “take time” for Assad to step down, but he expressed confidence that it will happen soon with the added pressure from around the globe.
“Bashar Assad is on his way out. That is our assessment,” a senior administration official told reporters at the White House.
“We believe that the balance has shifted within Syria, that the Syrian people won’t accept his rule anymore, and having that balance shift means that Basar Assad’s time in power is limited, his days are numbered.”
Officials said the Executive Order signed by the president imposing “unprecedented” financial sanctions against Syria will “choke off further the resources that are necessary for the regime to carry out its crackdown.”
They did not specify whether other U.S. allies would follow suit on the sanctions front, only noting “we expect there to be additional pressures brought to bear by our allies.”
Is a possible U.S. military role in Syria on the table to help hasten the fall of the regime?
“I don’t think anybody believes that that is the desired course in Syria – not the U.S. and our allies or the Syrian people themselves,” an official said.