Syrian Actions ‘Utterly Deplorable,’ Pentagon Spokesman Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2012 — 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.”

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