The Obama administration has moved from “engagement” (the only result of which was to expose Sen. John Kerry [D-Mass.], the chief engager, as a buffoon) to insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer” to “deep disappointment” to admission that it is “appalling” to kill thousands of unarmed citizens to platitudinous statements that the butcher of Damascus is no longer (when was he?) the legitimate ruler of Syria.
The State Department — you can’t put anything past the striped-pants set — pronounced yesterday “you can’t have any kind of partnership with a regime that does this kind of thing to innocents.” (Hand-smack to the forehead.)
Over at the White House, Jay Carney insisted Syria would be “better off without [Assad].” In other news:
Outside analysts said human rights groups have understandably grown frustrated, if not disgusted, with the administration’s anemic approach. The Foreign Policy Initiative yesterday observed that the White House “stopped short of explicitly calling for Assad to step down — despite the fact that Assad’s forces have killed more than 2,000 civilians since protests began in March 2011 and are now escalating their lethal offensive on protesters during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.”
FPI executive director Jamie Fly explained the impact of President Obama’s paralysis on the Syrian protest movement:
As opposition leader Razan Zaytouneh, a 34-year-old human rights lawyer currently in hiding in Syria, told the Italian-based Arabic news service Adnkronos, “There is an overwhelming feeling among Syrians that the Western states are giving chance after chance to the regime in order to repress the revolution, and that there are no real efforts to condemn and to demand for the regime to leave.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of human right groups is banding together, accusing the administration of ignoring its own policy on mass atrocities. Freedom House’s president, David J. Kramer, put out a statement that read, in part:
President Assad has ignored international calls for him to cease attacks on civilians in the cities of Hama, Deir Ezzor, Bokamel, Arben, and Madameya. Since the protests began in March, more than 2000 have been killed and many more injured and detained. . . .
President Obama recently announced a new “Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities” which will create a new interagency Atrocities Prevention Board tasked with coordinating a comprehensive government approach to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.
“If President Obama is serious in his intention to make the prevention of mass atrocities a U.S. priority, Syria fits that bill,” continued Kramer.
In a letter to the president signed by the heads of Freedom House, the Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition and the Project on Middle East Democracy, the human rights leaders urged him to abide by his own directive:
We agree on your assessment of the situation in Syria and support your new Directive on Mass Atrocities, which states that the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide “is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” However, we are disappointed by the so far inadequate and uneven response of the U.S. government in regards to Syria and strongly urge that additional action from the United States not await the 100-day review of tools available to U.S. Policy Makers that was called for in the directive. We urge you to immediately call on President Assad to step down and lead a concerted international effort to raise the pressure on his regime.
Moreover, we recommend several steps to increase pressure on Assad’s regime to end the violence:
•Immediately call for the resignation of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and support his prosecution for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court upon his removal from power
•Secure support in the United Nations Security Council for a strong resolution (versus the statement that was issued last week) to condemn the Syrian government’s brutality against peaceful protestors and demand that the perpetrators be held to account; to get Russian and Chinese abstentions, if not outright support, will require your personal efforts with Presidents Medvedev and Hu
•Increase sanctions on Syria in concert with the European Union, including sanctions on its oil and gas sectors
•Instruct Ambassador Ford to make further visits to cities affected by Syrian government crackdowns
•Meet with leaders of the Syria opposition, as Secretary Clinton did on Tuesday
The common theme running through the administration’s critics in think tanks, human rights groups, Syrian pro-democracy groups and Congress is that Obama’s inertness has prolonged the suffering of the Syrian people and damaged America moral standing and image in the region. The same is true for virtually any human rights issue on the planet. Obama’s insistence on international consensus is particularly inappropriate when it comes to human rights, since so many in the “international community” are in fact the source of the problem.
In a tweet from the White House yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper mused: “Wow, look at all the ambassadors from democracy-free countries that abuse human rights at the WH tonight for the Iftar dinner.” That’s probably the most honest assessment to date on Obama’s human rights approach to Middle East human rights. Maybe next time he should invite the families and friends of those slaughtered in Syria.