May 31, 2012

Pentagon Supports Diplomatic, Economic Pressure on Syria

Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
Department of Defense photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, conducts a press briefing at the Pentagon, May 29, 2012.

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.

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.”

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