Entries in President Bashar al-Assad (14)


McCain Says Al-Assad Has 'Upper Hand' in Syria

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Senator John McCain's visit to Syria last week was a secret, but he's not holding back on what he thinks is the status of the two-year-long conflict and it isn't good.

Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation Monday, the Arizona Republican accused the U.S. of sitting back and watching as President Bashar al-Assad gains "the upper hand" on the Syrian opposition.

McCain said the fighters that he met during his unannounced and quick sojourn into Syria from Turkey were neither al Qaeda or extremists elements but "some very strong and good people who are fighting for freedom and are being massacred as we speak."

However, without help from Washington and the West, McCain said the previous contention one year ago that al-Assad looked like he was on his way out doesn't apply anymore.

Repeating the assessment of Middle East analysts who say that the Syrian government has been boosted by Russian and Iranian weapons as well as Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, McCain said the quickest way to help the Syrian opposition is with a no-fly zone that would not entail any direct U.S. military involvement.

Meanwhile, as far as the upcoming peace summit in Geneva is concerned, McCain expressed doubts al-Assad would send representatives as long as he's prevailing on the battlefield.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Syria Demands Guarantee from Rebels Before Pulling Out Troops

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BEIRUT, Syria) -- Syrian government officials called for a written guarantee that rebels would cease fighting before pulling out its troops, jeaopardizing a U.N.-brokered peace plan, The Washington Post reports.

The six-point peace plan was drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and endorsed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on April 1, which set a Tuesday deadline for Syrian forces to withdraw from cities. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi denied the agreement, stating that Annan has not delivered written guarantees of the armed rebel groups to lay down their weapons.

Annan said in a statement issued on Sunday that he was shocked by a surge in violence and atrocities that violated assurances the Syrian government had given him.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John McCain Tells Leon Panetta ‘We’re Not Leading’ on Syria

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/​Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain, a supporter of U.S. military action to bring down the Assad regime in Syria, told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday that the United States has failed to show unilateral leadership on the crisis in Syria.

The Arizona Republican advocated earlier this week for U.S. air strikes against Syria to help end President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown of opposition groups.

Panetta, appearing before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the situation in Syria, said in his opening statement that the United States was reviewing potential steps that could include “potential military options if necessary.”  But he stressed that “although we will not rule out any future course of action, currently the administration is focusing on diplomatic and political approaches rather than a military intervention.”

He made the point that the United States was working with international partners to build "a consensus as to what action we do take. That makes the most sense. What doesn’t make sense is to take unilateral action at this point,” Panetta said.

He said that as defense secretary, he has a responsibility to be sure of the mission and their role in it. Panetta said the Obama administration “believes that every effort ought to be made to deal with those concerns in the international setting to try to build the kind of international consensus that worked in Libya and that can work in Syria if we can develop that.”

McCain disliked that response, saying to Panetta, “let me tell you what’s wrong with your statement.”  He continued, “You don’t mention American leadership. Americans should lead in this, America should be standing up. America should be building coalitions; we shouldn’t have statements like we are not going to intervene no matter what the situation is, such has been up until now the statements by the administration and the president.”

“In past experiences, those that I mentioned before, America has led. Yes, it has been multilateral and multinational, this is absolutely vital. We’re not leading Mr. Secretary,” said McCain.

As he did at another congressional hearing Tuesday, McCain criticized administration statements that the United States is still trying to figure out the make-up of the Syrian opposition. McCain said Tuesday that characterizations that al Qaeda is operating on the fringes of the Syrian opposition are delaying any potential assistance to rebels whom he sees as pursuing democratic freedoms.

He continued in the same vein on Wednesday saying of the opposition, “They are fighting because they want the same freedoms and rights that we guarantee in our Constitution.  I reject the argument that we, quote, ‘don’t know who they are.’”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bodies of Journalists Killed in Syria Released to ICRC

Dave M. Benett/Getty Images(DAMASCUS) -- The bodies of two journalists killed in Syria on Feb. 22 arrived in Damascus on Friday after Syrian officials released them to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

American journalist Marie Colvin, 56 and French photographer Remi Ochlik, 29 were killed and two other foreign journalists were injured in an apparent targeted attack on their makeshift news center in the besieged town of Homs.

Hundreds have been killed in uprisings in Syria since last year. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had been attacking Homs for several weeks when the journalists were killed.

The journalists' bodies were transported by ambulance to Damascus. Colvin, who worked for the Sunday Times in London, is expected to be buried in her native New York.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Question of Time’ Before Syria’s Assad Falls, US Intel Official Says

ABC NEWS/Rob Wallace(WASHINGTON) -- Syrian President Bashar al Assad will not be able to maintain his grip on power in the wake of a wave of opposition that has dragged on for almost a year, America’s top intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday.

“I personally believe it’s a question of time before Assad falls,” James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. CIA Director David Petraeus added, “I generally subscribe to that as well.”

Clapper said “it could be a long time” before the Assad regime falls because of “the protraction of these demonstrations” and a Syrian opposition that remains fragmented. Despite that, Clapper said, “I do not see how long he can sustain his rule of Syria.”

Petraeus described the Syrian opposition as “showing a considerable amount of resilience” and is now carrying out increasing levels of violence.

The CIA director noted how the two main Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo had been relatively free of violence, but are now seeing violence in the suburbs.

He said the stiff resistance regime forces have encountered shows “how substantial the opposition to  the regime is and how it is in fact growing and how increasing areas are becoming beyond the reach of the regime’s security forces.”

Both Clapper and Petraeus said it was uncertain what a post-Assad Syria might look like, though Petraeus thinks the Sunni Arab majority might emerge in the new leadership and that could raise the question of how they would deal with minority populations within Syria.

Both intelligence officials said Hezbollah and Iran are concerned about what’s going on in Syria because it could affect their supply flow into Lebanon.  "What is transpiring in Syria is of course of great concern to them,” said Clapper. “It is why they are both expending great effort, in terms of resources and advice and this sort of thing, to prop up the Assad regime.”

Petraeus said, “Clearly, the loss of Syria as a logistics platform, a line of communication into Lebanon to support Hezbollah would be a substantial setback for Iran in its efforts to use Hezbollah as a proxy.” He added, “That is why the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force is so is engaged in trying to prop up Bashar al Assad right now. ”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Arab Draft UN Resolution on Syria Supports Call For Assad to Step Down

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) -- Morocco circulated a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council on Friday, created with input from the United States and its European partners. According to a copy of the resolution, obtained by ABC News, the proposed resolution would endorse a peace deal put forth by the Arab League which includes a call on President Assad to transfer power. It gives the Assad government 15 days to comply and warns of “further measures” to be taken in consultation with the Arab League.

A Russian proposal remains that the U.S. has said it is not prepared to support, but neither draft is ready for a vote yet. The Russian ambassador to the U.N. on Friday indicated his country’s disappointment with the Moroccan draft.

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday will debate the situation going on in Syria.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Clinton Meets with Syrian Opposition Leaders in Geneva

State Department photo by William Ng(GENEVA) -- Traveling in Geneva on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with members of the Syrian National Council (SNC), a Syrian exile opposition group working to oust President Bashar al Assad. It’s her second meeting with SNC representatives.

Before meeting with seven group members of the opposition group, Clinton told them she was honored to be meeting with its members. She said she was, “particularly interested in the work you are doing about how a democratic transition would proceed.” She then referenced a paper that had been presented to Fred Hof, special coordinator for regional affairs, who had told her that there are, “many very constructive ideas in it.”

She told them, "Obviously, a democratic transition is more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law,” and respect for minority ethnic groups and women.

“We certainly believe that if Syrians unite, they together can succeed in moving their country to that better future.  We are well aware that there is a lot of hard work to be done.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EU Sanctions Syrian Oil, Cuts Off Major Revenue Source for Regime

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- The European Union announced Friday new sanctions against Syrian oil, which in effect cuts off a major revenue source for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Here is the full notice from the Council of the European Union:

In view of the gravity of the situation in Syria, the Council today further tightened the EU's sanctions against that country and imposed a ban on the import of Syrian oil to the EU.

The prohibition concerns purchase, import and transport of oil and other petroleum products from Syria. No financial or insurance services may be provided for such transactions.

In addition, the Council added four more Syrian persons and three entities to the list of those targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban pursuant to decision 2011/273/CFSP (1) and regulation 442/2011 (2). At the same time, the Council introduced an exemption to the asset freeze for humanitarian purposes, e.g. for the delivery of medical supplies, food or the evacuation of foreign nationals from Syria.

The arms embargo imposed on Syria on May 9 continues to remain in place. Today's decisions were adopted by written procedure. Together with the list of the additional designations, they will be published in the Official Journal on September 3, 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Sanctions Syria's Foreign Minister, Two Other Top Officials

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday slapped sanctions on Syria Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem, the nation's ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali, and Bouthaina Shaaban, a top media advisor to President Bashar al-Assad.

The move is part of the Obama administration’s continued effort to ratchet up pressure on the Assad regime.

“With regard to Ali Abdul Karim Ali, our concern was the close ties that he's maintained with Syrian intelligence throughout his diplomatic career. With regard to Walid al-Moallem, he's continued to beat this drum of international conspiracy and has -- and has attempted to cover up the regime's horrific activities by making claims that terrorists or others were responsible. And Bouthaina Shaaban has served as the public mouthpiece for the repression of the regime,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Regarding the ambassador to Lebanon, she added, "We believe that his activities in Lebanon were not compatible with his diplomatic status… we have been concerned -- and we've conveyed these concerns to the Lebanese government -- about harassment of Syrians in Lebanon and the disappearance of some of them.”

Nuland said U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has met with the foreign minister, most recently in the past couple weeks, and these sanctions don’t preclude them meeting again. The sanctions also don’t prevent the foreign minister from attending next month’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, since the U.S. is treaty-bound to allow individuals to attend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Sanctions Syrian Banks and Largest Cellphone Company

Syrian president Bashar Assad. (Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced new sanctions on Syria, the second round in as many weeks, as the regime of President Bashar Assad continues its brutal crackdown on protesters throughout the country.

Added to the sanctions list Wednesday were the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, the largest commercial bank in the country, and its Lebanese-based subsidiary, Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank. The banks are accused of aiding Syria’s illicit proliferation activities with North Korea. Syria’s largest cell phone provider, Syriatel, was also slapped with sanctions because of its owner’s role in supporting human rights abuses in the country.

“By exposing Syria’s largest commercial bank as an agent for designated Syrian and North Korean proliferators, and by targeting Syria’s largest mobile phone operator for being controlled by one of the regime’s most corrupt insiders, we are taking aim at the financial infrastructure that is helping provide support to Assad and his regime’s illicit activities,” David Cohen, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement.

According to the Treasury Department, the two banks provided financial services to Syrian and North Korean research facilities that supported the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including missile systems. Syriatel was sanctioned because it is owned by Rami Makhluf, a prominent Syrian businessman with close ties to the regime who was already placed under U.S. sanctions in 2008.

Last week, the Treasury Department added a prominent businessman and member of parliament to its list of more than two dozen individuals sanctioned since the uprising began earlier this year for their role in supporting or financing the regime.

According to U.S. officials, the United States is also developing tough sanctions on Syria’s oil and gas sector, a lucrative source of funding for the regime. A senior American diplomat, Fred Hof, is visiting European capitals this week to rally support for similar action there. U.S. officials want European countries to take coordinated action on energy sanctions in order for them to be more effective, since their companies have more ties with Syria.

The Obama administration is also weighing whether to call on President Assad to step down. Last week the White House was prepared to make such a declaration, but held back over concerns raised by the State Department. So far President Obama has only said that Assad has “lost legitimacy,” but has refrained from calling for his ouster.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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