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Mr. Kucinich goes to Damascus

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich goes where seasoned diplomats and Middle East experts fear to tread. Is that a wise move?

By Staff writer / July 1, 2011

This photo shows Syria's Bashar al-Assad meeting with US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio and his delegation in Damascus, Syria, on June 27.

Sana/AFP/Newscom

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Hillary Clinton issued one of the sternest American warnings to Syria yet today.

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Saying the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is "running out of time" she placed the blame for the country's violence squarely on the president and his supporters.

"We regret the loss of life and we regret the violence, but this choice is up to the Syrian government," Clinton told reporters. "And, right now, we're looking for action not words and we haven't seen enough of that."

Mr. Assad has ruled Syria since 2000, when his father Hafez died. The elder Mr. Assad took power in 1971, strengthening one-party rule in his time in office and expanding the surveillance and repression of Syria's citizenry. Bashar has carried on the family tradition, notwithstanding the fact that many in the West praised him as a likely "reformer." At least 1,500 Syrians have died in the government's ongoing crackdown against demands for political change and Assad has shown no signs of giving in. It's hard to see why he would, since a truly open political system would almost certainly spell the end for the power and privilege of his friends and family.

But at least one man continues to hold out hope that Assad will find his inner reformer: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio. Though a Democrat, he's been sharply out of step with the Obama administration. He criticized US participation in the NATO air campaign against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and has said on multiple occasions that he has hope that Assad will bow to demands for political change.

His visit to Damascus this week got off to a predictable start. After meeting with a group of hand-picked local journalists earlier this week, the state news agency quoted Mr. Kucinich as saying Assad "is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians" and that Assad "cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this."

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