The Obama administration is planning to call for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as soon as this week, a senior official said Wednesday, in a move underlining the administration’s disgust at an intensified crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
The senior administration official said “the policy decision has been all but made” on telling Assad to leave office. “It is his actions that have done it,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy decisions.
The administration has been consulting with allied governments in recent days to coordinate the timing of the announcement. The Associated Press first reported the administration’s plans to call for Assad’s departure.
U.S. lawmakers have grown increasingly critical of the administration for its caution in dealing with Assad. White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday reiterated that Syria “would be better off without President Assad” and said he had lost his legitimacy.
The administration has hesitated to make a formal call for Assad’s departure because of concerns that he could depict such a break as evidence that his removal was being engineered by Washington. The U.S. government wants to “make sure that the story remains about the Syrian people and not about us,” said Jeff Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, at a recent House hearing.
In addition, the administration had been trying to determine how to time such an announcement to get the maximum affect. “We have the dramat of that once,” Feltman said.
Assad appeared undeterred Wednesday by the rising chorus of condemnation of his forces’ assault on protesters. While Syrian tanks began pulling out of Hama, an opposition stronghold that has been under siege for 10 days, the military moved into two towns near the Turkish border, news services reported.
At least one woman was killed and 13 were wounded when Syrian tanks and armored vehicles rolled into Taftanaz and Sermin, according to the Reuters news service, which quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
About 2,000 peaceful protesters have been slain by Syrian forces during the five-month uprising, according to U.S. officials.