According to human rights groups, Syria's military has killed over 2,000 civilians since a crackdown on protesters began in mid-March. After repeatedly condemning the violence, the United States is finally calling for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to step down. In a written statement released this morning, President Obama praised the Syrian people for their courage and demanded that Assad remove himself from power.
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. 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.
The United States 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. What the United States 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.
Obama also announce a new slew of "unprecedented sanctions" against Syria and the Assad regime:
I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria. This E.O. 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. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others.
It may come as a surprise that an official call for Assad to step down didn't happen a long time ago, but then again, it's mostly an empty symbolic gesture anyway, according to the AP:
Although the officials acknowledged the move is not likely to have any immediate impact on the Syrian regime's behavior, they said it would send a powerful signal that Assad is no longer welcome in the international community.
Hasn't Assad, by continuing his brutal campaign of violence over everyone's objections for months now, already sent an even more powerful signal that the international community can shove it?
This post has been updated with new information.