American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Armed attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that have killed and wounded thousands of citizens since last January are “utterly deplorable,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
On the same day the State Department suspended operation of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and moved all American personnel, including Ambassador Robert Ford, out of the country, Little said the Defense Department’s focus “remains on applying intense diplomatic and economic pressure on the Assad regime.”
“We believe there is a strong chance that pressure can yield results on behalf of the Syrian people and those who are repressed in Syria,” he added.
President Barack Obama issued a strong statement Feb. 4 about the regime’s actions.
“Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity,” the president said.
On Feb. 3, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, Obama added, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.
“The United States and our international partners support the Syrian people in achieving their aspirations and will continue to assist the Syrian people toward that goal,” the president said.
On Feb. 4, Russian and Chinese representatives on the U.N. Security Council vetoed a resolution that backed an Arab League plan to resolve the crisis in Syria. Thirteen of the council’s 15 members voted in favor of a draft text submitted by Morocco. A veto by any one of the council’s five permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- means a resolution can’t be adopted.
At the State Department today, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that the recent surge in violence in Syria, including bombings in Damascus on Dec. 23 and Jan. 6, “has raised serious concerns that our Embassy is not sufficiently protected from armed attack.”
The U.S. embassy, along with several other diplomatic missions, she added, “conveyed our security concerns to the Syrian government but the regime failed to respond adequately.”
The deteriorating security situation that led to the suspension of diplomatic operations “makes clear once more the dangerous path Assad has chosen and the regime’s inability to fully control Syria,” Nuland said.
In the meantime, according to news reports, over the past weeks several of the Assad regime’s military leaders have publicly sided with those who oppose the regime.
“It is noteworthy,” Little said, “that we’re seeing some high-level defections of senior Syrian military officials … to the opposition.”