The United States on Tuesday said the Syrian government has lost legitimacy and
France called for a Security Council meeting after regime loyalists attacked the
US and French embassies in Damascus.
Denunciations of Syrian President
Bashar Assad from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Prime
Minister Francois Fillon marked those countries’ sharpest condemnation yet of
the Syrian strongman, who is struggling to put down four months of
US, French envoys in Syria's Hama for protests
4 killed in Syria as US, French envoys visit Hama
“From our perspective, he has lost legitimacy. He has failed to
deliver on the promises he’s made. He has sought and accepted aid from the
Iranians as to how to repress his own people,” Clinton said, adding Assad is
“We have absolutely nothing invested in him
remaining in power,” she said in an appearance with European Union foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Syria promptly denounced Clinton’s
remarks, with the state news agency SANA calling them “provocative” and aimed at
“continuing the internal tension.”
“These statements are another proof of
the US’s flagrant intervention in Syria’s internal affairs. The legitimacy of
Syria’s leadership is not based on the United States or others; it stems from
the will of the Syrian people,” it said.
The attacks followed protests
against a visit by US Ambassador Robert Ford and French envoy Eric Chevallier to
Hama, now the focus of the uprising against Assad.
Ash Jain, a visiting
fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former member of the
State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, said Clinton’s rhetoric marks a
significant change in the US administration’s tone.
“What we saw the
other day with Ambassador Ford when he made his visit to Hama signaled a turning
point in the relationship. The government is now prepared to move one step
further in saying the regime is ‘not indispensable.’ This is a very significant
step towards the US coming out affirmatively and calling for Assad to go,” Jain
told The Jerusalem Post
Still, Jain said he would stop short of
describing Clinton’s remarks as a game-changer.
“It doesn’t change
anything on the ground. The regime is still in charge of the military and security apparatus. And that won’t change, no matter what Secretary Clinton
or President Obama say,” said Jain, who for six years advised US officials on
managing security threats posed by Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
this might add to the undermining of the regime’s legitimacy within Syria among
groups that have so far stood by the regime.”
Clinton spoke after crowds
broke into the US embassy on Monday and tore down plaques, while security guards
using live ammunition drove crowds away from the French embassy.
is seeking a UN condemnation of the attacks on the embassies and French Foreign
Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Washington had also pushed for a council
meeting that should happen later on Tuesday.
Fillon described the
Security Council’s silence on Syria as “unbearable,” adding that China and
Russia were blocking the adoption of a UN resolution, efforts that are
“We hope the Security Council will condemn the embassy
attacks,” he said. “We want the Security Council to speak out on what has
The administration of US President Barack Obama has steadily
toughened its rhetoric on Assad as Syrian security forces crack down on
pro-democracy protests. But it had previously refrained from calling on Assad to
step down, as it did following protests against longtime leaders in Egypt and
“The leverage the US has in terms of what happens in Syria is
quite limited. This isn’t Egypt or even Libya, where the West was prepared to
intervene,” Jain said.
Washington has imposed targeted sanctions on Assad
and members of his inner circle, and has said it is working with its allies to
build international consensus for further steps to put pressure on his
Syria said Ford sought to incite protests. The State
Department denied that and said Ford toured Hama to show solidarity with
residents facing security crackdowns.
Human rights groups say at least
1,400 civilians have been killed since an uprising began in March against
Assad’s autocratic rule, posing the biggest threat to his leadership since he
succeeded his father.
Clinton’s comments marked a significant sharpening
of US criticism of Assad.
“The government thought for a while that the
Assad regime might move toward stemming the bloodshed and implementing reform,
and I think now it’s seeing the light – that that’s not going to happen,” Jain
He said he would not be surprised if Obama also ratcheted up his
rhetoric over the coming days and weeks, perhaps explicitly calling for Assad to
“Many people at [the] State [Department] seemed to view Assad as
somehow different, a different kind of dictator, someone who always talked the
right game and convinced a lot of people he was serious about peace in the
Middle East and about serious reforms. That belief seemed to somehow remain even
as we saw what the regime was orchestrating,” he said.
“I think we’re
seeing now that the Secretary and her colleagues feel the case for him being a
reformer simply is not there. There really is no prospect after this bloodshed
and carnage over the past few months – it really is time for him to
go.”Reuters contributed to this report