Why hasn't President Obama called for Syria's Assad to go?
As the death count rises in Syria, calls are mounting for President Obama to denounce Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. But Syria's pivotal role in the region and fragile ethnic and religious balance are complicating the situation.
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Partly it may be because of the chance the call could ring hollow. The administration has called for Muammar Qaddafi to quit, for example, yet he remains hunkered down in Tripoli – a living example of the limits of the power of presidential words.Skip to next paragraph
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Syria is a fragile nation that could break apart into sectarian warfare between its largely Sunni Muslim citizens and its minority elite of Alawis, an esoteric Islamic sect. Syria’s neighbors Lebanon and Iraq have both suffered such a fate in recent years, and as their experience shows, that would not be a pretty outcome.
Plus, Syria shares a border with Israel and remains important to the Middle East peace process. A Syria without Assad might not necessarily lead to an improvement in regional stability.
The administration appears loathe to get in front of its regional allies – notably Turkey and Saudi Arabia – on this issue. But as Ankara and Riyadh toughen their own words about Assad, the US may inevitably follow.
Unnamed US officials have told the Associated Press and other news outlets that a presidential statement about Assad could occur at any time.