The Obama administration is edging closer to calling for an end to the long rule of the Assad family in Syria. Administration officials said Tuesday that the first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule, a major policy shift that would amount to a call for regime change that has questionable support in the world community, AP reports.
The tougher US line almost certainly would echo demands for “democratic transition” that the administration used in Egypt and is now espousing in Libya, the officials said. But directly challenging Assad’s leadership is a decision fraught with problems: Arab countries are divided, Europe is still trying to gauge its response, and there are major doubts over how far the United States could go to back up its words with action.
The internal administration debate over a tougher approach to Assad’s regime is occurring amid a backdrop of brutality in Syria. More than 750 civilians have been killed since the uprising began nearly two months ago and some 9,000 people are still in custody, according to a leading Syrian human rights group.
“We urge the Syrian government to stop shooting protesters, to allow for peaceful marches and to stop these campaigns of arbitrary arrests and to start a meaningful dialogue,” US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Tuesday. He said Assad still had a chance to make amends, but acknowledged “the window is narrowing.”