The Obama administration has closed its embassy in Damascus (CNN), recalling all of its diplomats. In a harshly worded statement on February 4, President Obama reiterated his call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power without delay, saying “Assad has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.”
Obama’s statement came one day after a violent crackdown by government forces that left hundreds dead, and just prior to a UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution (NYT) backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria. The draft resolution failed (WSJ), thirteen to two, after Russia and China — two of the five permanent members with veto power — opposed it.
On Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said in an interview with CBS that that the United States could take covert action against Assad. “I think there are a lot of things we could do covertly in terms of supplying weapons, supplying — helping people in the region supply advisers,” he said. “I don’t think you need to use American troops, but you do need to communicate that those who are opposed to Assad will get the kind of support they need in order to defeat him.”
To see more about the candidates’ positions check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on Democracy Promotion in the Arab World.
Suggested Other Reading:
In Foreign Affairs, Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, looks at Russia’s veto and why Moscow “wants to halt the Arab Spring.”
Marc Lynch of ForeignPolicy.com says the UN Security Council failed Syria by failing to agree to a resolution condemning violence.
–Liriel Higa, Contributing Editor