[Marxism] US rips off Syrian assets; Obama demands Assad quit
ffeldman at verizon.net
Thu Aug 18 19:31:06 MDT 2011
yria: Assad must resign, says Obama
EU leaders echo rebuke, delivered by US president in executive order
imposing sanctions and freezing of assets
Chris McGreal in Washington and Martin Chulov in Beirut
The Guardian, Friday 19 August 2011
The US and Europe have dramatically increased the pressure on the Syrian
president, Bashar al-Assad, with Barack Obama leading a demand by world
leaders for him to surrender power.
Obama declared the "sustained onslaught" of Assad's regime against
pro-democracy protesters had cost it all legitimacy. The US president
was joined by David Cameron, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German
chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as the EU in demanding Assad
Obama said the Syrian people's pursuit of democracy was an inspiration
that had been met with "ferocious brutality" by their government.
"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President
Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and
reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and
slaughtering his own people," Obama said. "We have consistently said
that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the
way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has
come for President Assad to step aside."
Cameron issued a joint statement with Sarkozy and Merkel that noted
Assad had ignored appeals from other Middle East states, the Arab League
and the United Nations security council to end the violent crackdown:
"Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to
brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for
the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead
the country. We call on him to face the reality of the complete
rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the
best interests of Syria and the unity of its people."
On Thursday night at the UN, the US, Britain and European allies said
they would draft a security council sanctions resolution on Syria. "The
Syrian government has not changed course," Britain's deputy UN
ambassador, Philip Parham, told reporters after a closed-door council
meeting on Syria. "In fact, if anything, its actions over the last two
weeks have escalated."
"The time has come for the council to take further actions to step up
the pressure against those who are responsible for the violence against
the citizens of Syria." The EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, said
there had been a "complete loss of Bashar Assad's legitimacy in the eyes
of the Syrian people".
One veteran dissident in Damascus said: "I am jubilant. This came at the
right time for the street." He said protesters were telling him they
wanted to dance in the streets. A middle aged woman in Homs said: "More
protesters will go out now."
Razan Zeitouneh, a lawyer in Damascus, said: "This is the right thing to
happen after five months of killing civilians. The international
community must take its role towards the Syrian regime more seriously
and this statement is the right start. I hope to see a more collective
role now, which means the UN security council, and I hope to see the
Syrian file referred to the international criminal court soon." A
computer expert in his 20s from Hama said: "We still want this to come
from all the other countries, too, and for ambassadors to be withdrawn
and Syrian diplomatic staff to be kicked out."
To put pressure on Assad, Obama said the US was stepping up sanctions,
including freezing Syria's assets and banning petroleum products of
Syrian origin. But he insisted "the US cannot and will not impose this
transition upon Syria".
"It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders and we have
heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in
their movement," Obama said.
On Thursday night Syria's ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja'afari said the
US was waging a "diplomatic and humanitarian war" against his country
along with some other UN security council members.
"What the US will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is
democratic, just and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this
outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this
transition and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people
along with others in the international community."
The US has calibrated its response to the violence in Syria, wary of
Damascus's strategic role in the Arab world and the risk that the crisis
could be exported beyond its borders.
Washington has been cautious about putting its authority on the line,
fearing damage to its standing if Assad were to defy its calls for him
The call from western capitals came as it was revealed that UN human
rights investigators have listed the names of 50 regime figures who
could be prosecuted by the international criminal court (ICC) for crimes
committed against civilians during the violent crackdown on
pro-democracy demonstrators. The list is believed to include officials
from the president's inner circle and security agencies. It marks the
first time that government insiders have faced the prospect of criminal
charges since the five-month uprising began.
A decision on whether to refer the names to the ICC is likely to be made
The UN report accuses officials of torture, summary executions and abuse
of children – allegations that could amount to crimes against humanity.
It accuses security forces of indiscriminately firing at demonstrators,
sometimes from helicopters, and says injured protesters have been killed
inside hospitals, even being locked alive in mortuary freezers.
It says Syrian officials confirmed that about 1,900 demonstrators had
been killed by mid-July, and states that hundreds more have been killed
"Children have not only been targeted by security forces but they have
been repeatedly subject to the same human rights and criminal violations
as adults, including torture," the report said.
The authors were denied access to Syria and spent four months
interviewing defectors and demonstrators who had fled the country.
Dozens of former members of the security forces made their way to Amman
and Istanbul, where they have detailed the orders given to them by
senior officers to attack demonstrators.
Activists and defectors have compiled details of alleged atrocities by
troops whose commanders insist they are targeting terrorists holding
their communities to ransom.
The communities have regularly given a diametrically opposed version of
events, claiming that the armed men terrorising them are
government-backed militias, known as al-shabiha or ghosts, who work with
One defector, a conscript who was deployed to the southern city of
Dera'a in April, said his unit's first order was not to shoot at armed
men. "The officer said they were with us," the soldier said. "They said
only to shoot at the demonstrators."
In a telephone conversation on Wednesday with UN secretary general Ban
Ki-moon, Assad said the operations in the restive Syrian cities of
Latakia and Homs had finished. However, activists on the ground reported
on Wednesday that security forces were still active in both places. In
Latakia, a city that has been the subject of a four-day military
assault, security centres were overflowing with detainees and prisoners
were being held in the city's main football stadium and a cinema.
The push into Latakia ordered by commanders this week was stridently
criticised by other nations in the region, with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,
Tunisia and Qatar withdrawing their ambassadors and Turkey warning it
had uttered its "last words" on the crackdown.
Additional reporting by Nour Ali
© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated
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