War on Terrorism

Thursday, June 21, 2012

U.S. to Maintain Pressure on Assad Regime, Press Secretary Says

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2012 – The U.S. will continue to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime and it encourages Syrians to resist, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters during a press briefing today.

“I think you have some complex dynamics at work in Syria,” Little said. “Day by day by day, in the eyes of the Syrian people, and certainly in the eyes of the international community, the Assad regime is losing its legitimacy.”

Citing the latest instance of eroding faith in the regime, Little expressed U.S. support for the Syrian fighter pilot who sought and gained political asylum in Jordan following his decision to defect by flying a MIG-21 fighter jet across the border on Thursday.

“We have long called for members of the Syrian armed forces and members of the Syrian regime to defect and to abandon their positions rather than be complicit in the regime’s atrocities,” Little said. “This is just one of countless instances where Syrians, including members of the security forces, have rejected the abysmal actions of the Assad regime, and it certainly will not be the last.”

Soldiers who defected from the Syrian army in the past 15 months indicate hostile groups are losing their strongholds in the region, Little said. He also addressed what might enable opposition groups to effectively organize themselves amidst violence and hostility.

“One way to explain this is to look at the physics of a brutal authoritarian regime,” Little said. “Brutal authoritarian regimes, like the Assad regime, can be quite rigid … and rigidity often breeds brittleness. So at a certain point, we may be looking at a very brittle Assad regime, and that helps the opposition.”

Little said the resolve of opposition groups seems to be strengthening over time, even in the wake of “despicable acts” perpetuated by the Assad regime.

“They are standing up in the face of coercion and in the face of profound violence,” he said.

Little said the U.S. is not providing lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, but it does remain focused on State Department-led humanitarian assistance programs to aid “the right people inside that country.”

“The eye on the prize here is allowing the Syrian people to determine their own future,” Little said.

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