Pentagon Supports Diplomatic, Economic Pressure on Syria

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2012 — The Defense Depart­ment sup­ports the U.S. pol­i­cy of work­ing with inter­na­tion­al part­ners to put diplo­mat­ic and eco­nom­ic pres­sure on Syria’s gov­ern­ment to help stem the human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis there, the Pentagon’s press sec­re­tary said here today.

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George Lit­tle spoke with reporters at the Pen­ta­gon about the ongo­ing and desta­bi­liz­ing sit­u­a­tion in Syr­ia.

“What we’re wit­ness­ing in Syr­ia are atroc­i­ties under­tak­en by the [Bashar al-]Assad regime,” he said. “That kind of vio­lence by the regime needs to stop. We’ve been clear about that.”

U.S. pol­i­cy con­tin­ues to focus, “with our inter­na­tion­al part­ners,” Lit­tle added, “on apply­ing diplo­mat­ic and eco­nom­ic pres­sure on the Assad regime to try to con­vince them that they are pur­su­ing a reck­less, inhu­mane and deplorable course of action.”

Assad’s troops mas­sa­cred more than 100 Syr­i­an men, women and chil­dren in the Houla region, north of the city of Homs, on May 25, U.S. and Unit­ed Nations offi­cials said.

The State Depart­ment today “called in Syr­i­an charge d’af­faires Zuheir Jab­bour and informed him that he is no longer wel­come in the Unit­ed States and gave him 72 hours to depart,” spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nuland said in a brief­ing.

The action was tak­en, she said, in response to the “absolute­ly inde­fen­si­ble, vile, despi­ca­ble mas­sacre against inno­cent chil­dren, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs — [called] the shabi­ha — aid­ed and abet­ted by the Ira­ni­ans who were actu­al­ly brag­ging about it over the week­end.”

Nuland said the State Depart­ment is in con­sul­ta­tion with U.S. allies and part­ners about what more can be done to pres­sure the Assad regime.

“This deci­sion to kick out the charge was done in coor­di­na­tion with oth­er coun­tries,” she said. “Aus­tralia, Cana­da, Spain, the Unit­ed King­dom, Italy, France and Ger­many also took the same action today.”

At the Pen­ta­gon brief­ing, Lit­tle said the focus remains on the diplo­mat­ic and eco­nom­ic track “but at the end of the day we in the Depart­ment of Defense have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to look at the full spec­trum of options and to make them avail­able if they’re request­ed.”

Lit­tle added, “We share the shock over the atroc­i­ties that we’re see­ing in Syr­ia with our inter­na­tion­al part­ners. And we have an inter­est, of course, in sta­bil­i­ty in the region.”

The Unit­ed States has for decades played a key role in try­ing to pro­vide peace, sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty for that region, he said.

“When there is a cri­sis like this that erupts that has the poten­tial to cause not just human­i­tar­i­an dis­as­ters but also could cas­cade out­side of Syr­ia, poten­tial­ly, that’s a con­cern to coun­tries of the region and to coun­tries like the Unit­ed States out­side the region,” Lit­tle said.

Defense Depart­ment offi­cials have been in reg­u­lar con­tact with inter­na­tion­al part­ners and coun­tries in the region to express “our col­lec­tive dis­may at what’s hap­pen­ing in Syr­ia and to try to see if there are things we can do to bring pres­sure to bear on the Assad regime to stop what they’re doing against their own peo­ple,” the press sec­re­tary said.

“That’s of course the pru­dent thing to do,” Lit­tle added, “when you see a cri­sis like this in a very impor­tant region of the world.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)