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White House divided over Syria – Former US official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat – A US expert in Middle Eastern affairs has informed Asharq Al-Awsat that there is a division in the White House over Washington’s next step with regards to Syria, and the intensification of demonstrations and clashes with government forces, and the increase in the number of casualties and wounded.

Former director for Middle East affairs at the US National Security Council, Michael Singh, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there are indications that some of Obama’s advisors are aware of the need for change in Syria. However, some argue that the problem is not President Bashar al-Assad, but rather the “old guard” who were put in place by his father, [former Syrian President] Hafez al-Assad, and who he [Bashar al-Assad] is surrounded by.”

Singh added “however President Bashar al-Assad’s statements, and his policies, contradict those who say that”.

Singh, who is an associate fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also criticized “[the US] courting of al-Assad to achieve regional objectives, whilst ignoring what is happening inside Syria”.

Singh called on Washington to increase its economic and political pressure on Damascus by imposing sanctions on Syria, and also called on the Obama administration to support the pro-democracy protestors in Syria. He told Asharq Al-Awsat the al-Assad’s regime is economically weak, and that Syria does not possess the natural resources that some of its neighbors do. Singh alluded to the “desire for reform that is sweeping the region”, and the “loss of an important ally in the West, namely France”. He pointed towards statements made by French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, and said that these reflect “a big change” in French policy in the region, in light of the French military intervention in Libya.

Singh said that the White House is divided between following the French line or improving relations with Syria in order to serve US regional objectives, stressing that this division is evident in the continuing statements of condemnation and denunciation issued from the White House.

On 8 April 2011, US President Barack Obama “strongly” condemned the acts of violence committed by the security forces in Syria. He said in a statement issued by the White House “I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government today and over the past few weeks. I also condemn any use of violence by protesters”.

Obama added “I call upon the Syrian authorities to refrain from any further violence against peaceful protestors. Furthermore, the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of prisoners that has been reported must end now, and the free flow of information must be permitted so that there can be independent verification of events on the ground”.

He went on to say that the Syrians “deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations”, such as “freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly…Until now, the Syrian government has not addressed the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people”.

After meeting Obama at the White House, Israeli President Shimon Peres called upon the international community “to support the transition towards democracy in Syria” and also to support “other youth movements throughout the Middle East”.

He said “I think that a democratic system in Syria is the best bet for the future”. He added “the Syrian President has convinced himself that people love him, but the truth has emerged that this is a fantasy. It is the policy of the ruler to distinguish between support and supporters, and support exists as long as you are in power. However, when you experience a problem, supporters disappear”.

Peres said that Israel was ready to give up the Golan Heights in the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement with Syria, on the condition that Syria abandons its alliance with Tehran, and its dependence on Iranian support. Peres added: “If Syria distanced itself from the Iranians and Hezbollah, [relations between Syria and Israel] would be very close. However, if Syria wants to make gains here and there at the same time, this will not happen”.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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