Clinton, No Longer a Believer that Assad is a ‘Reformer,’ Says He Can’t Sustain the Armed Opposition in Syria

Nov 18, 2011 8:05am
gty bashar al assad dm 111118 wb Clinton, No Longer a Believer that Assad is a Reformer, Says He Cant Sustain the Armed Opposition in Syria

Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News Friday that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s days were numbered since he is “not going to be able to sustain what is a unfortunately growing armed opposition apparently fueled and maybe led by defectors from his army.”

In March, Clinton seemed to be holding out hope that Assad would take a different course, telling CBS News that “many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

“We had hoped so because there was a lot at stake, we wanted to see an agreement,New Post for example, between Syria and Israel,” Clinton said. “We heard what Assad said about what he wanted to do for reform. But when it came to it, in the Arab Spring and as people actually demanded some freedom and their rights, he responded, as we have seen, very violently.”

Now, she said, “it’s probably too late for him to change course, but there needs to be a change at the top of that government and there needs to be an effort to engage in genuine dialogue and start on the path of reform.”

TAPPER: Syria was just kicked out of the Arab League. What’s next for the U.S. to change the situation and change the leadership? What can actually be done without taking steps along the lines of what was done in Libya?

CLINTON: Well Jake, what’s so important about this, and I think our diplomacy has had something to do with it, is we recognized early on that, we were not the, the voice most likely to be headed by the Syrians. We had very few, if any, connections with them, very little trade with them. We’d just returned an ambassador after an absence of a number of years and so what we’ve encouraged, in addition to our statements, is a growing chorus that now consists of the Arab League and Turkey, that cannot be ignored by Syria. And I think you’re seeing the results. It’s tragic in lots of ways. We’ve urged Syria, along with everyone else to truly negotiate, to protect peaceful protesters. They’ve ignored all of us –

TAPPER: — You at one point seemed to have optimism that Assad was a reformer.

CLINTON: Well we had hoped so because there was a lot at stake, we wanted to see an agreement, for example, between Syria and Israel. That was something that people have been working on for 30 years. We heard what Assad said about what he wanted to do for reform. But when it came to it, in the Arab Spring and as people actually demanded some freedom and their rights, he responded, as we have seen, very violently.

But he’s not going to be able to sustain what is a unfortunately growing armed opposition apparently fueled and maybe led by defectors from his army. It’s probably too late for him to change course, but there needs to be a change at the top of that government and there needs to be an effort to engage in genuine dialogue and start on the path of reform.

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