President Obama on Thursday called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a demand aimed to ratchet up the diplomatic pressure on the leader who has launched a bloody crackdown on his own people for months.Thoughts from Ed Morrissey:
"For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside," Obama said in a statement.
The president has signed an executive order to block property and prohibit certain transactions with respect to Syria, the White House announced.
The order immediately freezes all the Syrian government's assets under U.S. jurisdiction and bans Americans from "engaging in any transaction involving the government of Syria."
It also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria, the statement said.
Obama also says he expects his actions "to be amplified by others."
Speaking to reporters Thursday morning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the White House statements. "The people of Syria deserve a government that respects their dignity ... their rights and lives up to their aspirations. Assad is standing in their way," Clinton said. "For the sake of the Syrian people the time has come for him to step aside and leave this transition to the Syrians themselves."
Even though the Obama administration has condemned the scale and brutality of Assad’s crackdown on the Syrian people, even going so far to say that Assad has “lost legitimacy,” it had stopped short of calling for him to step down.
What took so long? Obama tossed our nominal ally Mubarak under the bus in eight days, a man who kept a cold peace with Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood under control. But the White House insisted that Assad was a “reformer,” despite his alliance with Iran, his links to Hezbollah’s terrorism in Lebanon, and assistance to Hamas in attacking Israel. The last four months gave a steady stream of images and testimony to Assad’s ideas of “reform,” which were not only remarkably similar to his father’s but also got demonstrated most notably in the same town his father nearly buried for its dissent, Hama.Yes, it's late. Yes, it's too muted. No, it's not perfect. If I had to guess, tt was probably done at the instigation of Hillary Clinton. But it is something concrete and tangible that can and should help the efforts against Assad going forward.
National Journal says the Obama administration will next “escalate the diplomatic pressure on Damascus,” but that may be more difficult now than before. After watching how the Obama administration treated its ally Mubarak, the other nations in the region understood that the US was not going to be much of an ally for them, either. The Saudis are furious about Mubarak’s treatment, for instance, and his ongoing trial won’t help matters. The Saudis have already recalled their ambassador to Damascus, a step that Obama still hasn’t taken, unless it’s part of today’s sanctions. The rest of the Arab League will probably take the Saudi’s lead on Assad, not Washington’s, and certainly not after the embarrassing suck-up of the last four months from Obama to Assad while his army slaughtered people in the street.
And for that Obama should be applauded.