It took about five months from the start of the Syrian uprising for the Obama administration to make the leap to saying President Assad should “step aside.”
Here’s a look back at the long — and deliberate — buildup.
Mid-March: Pro-democracy protests spread across Syria.
March 27: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to defend Assad, saying: “There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”
April 26: National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor calls the crackdown in the city of Deraa “completely deplorable” and says the White House condemns it “in the strongest possible terms.”
April 28: In a letter, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) call on Obama to strengthen his policy and say declare that Assad has “lost legitimacy.”
April 29: Obama issues an executive order targeting Syrian officials involved in human rights abuses.
May 18: Obama issues an executive order targeting Assad specifically and six other senior officials.
May 19: Obama delivers a major Middle East speech on the Arab Spring. During his remarks, he says: “President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”
July 11: Clinton says Assad has “lost legitimacy.”
July 12: White House press secretary Jay Carney echoes Clinton, saying Assad has “lost legitimacy” and that he is “not indispensable.”
Aug. 5: Obama talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, raises the prospect of calling for Assad to go.
Aug. 13: Obama talked with British Prime Minister David Cameron, “forging agreement it was time for Assad to step aside.”
Aug. 18: Obama and other Western leaders call on Assad to quit.