Obama: "The Time Has Come For President Assad To Step Aside"

August 18, 2011 12:00 pm ET — Walid Zafar

President Barack Obama said Thursday that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad must step down after unleashing "ferocious brutality" against anti-government demonstrations. The five-month campaign has resulted in the deaths of countless civilians. "I strongly condemn this brutality, including the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians in cities like Hama and Deir al Zour, and the arrests of opposition figures who have been denied justice and subjected to torture at the hands of the regime," the president said in a strong statement released by the White House this morning:

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 announced what he called "unprecedented sanctions" against the Assad regime in an effort to "disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people." An Executive Order signed by the president blocks the property of the Syrian government, prohibits Americans from investing in and exporting goods to the country and, perhaps most importantly, prohibits U.S. entities from "having any dealings in or related to" the country's petroleum products.

The statement made clear, however, that the transition would not be imposed on Syria by the United States or through military force. "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," the president said.

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