WASHINGTON, May 29, 2012 â€“ The Defense Department supports the U.S. policy of working with international partners to put diplomatic and economic pressure on Syriaâ€™s government to help stem the humanitarian crisis there, the Pentagonâ€™s press secretary said here today.
George Little spoke with reporters at the Pentagon about the ongoing and destabilizing situation in Syria.
â€œWhat weâ€™re witnessing in Syria are atrocities undertaken by the [Bashar al-]Assad regime,â€ he said. â€œThat kind of violence by the regime needs to stop. Weâ€™ve been clear about that.â€
U.S. policy continues to focus, â€œwith our international partners,â€ Little added, â€œon 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.â€
Assadâ€™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 â€œcalled in Syrian charge dâ€™affaires Zuheir Jabbour and informed him that he is no longer welcome in the United States and gave him 72 hours to depart,â€ spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a briefing.
The action was taken, she said, in response to the â€œabsolutely 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.â€
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.
â€œThis decision to kick out the charge was done in coordination with other countries,â€ she said. â€œAustralia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany also took the same action today.â€
At the Pentagon briefing, Little said the focus remains on the diplomatic and economic track â€œbut 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 theyâ€™re requested.â€
Little added, â€œWe share the shock over the atrocities that weâ€™re seeing in Syria with our international partners. And we have an interest, of course, in stability in the region.â€
The United States has for decades played a key role in trying to provide peace, stability and security for that region, he said.
â€œWhen 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, thatâ€™s a concern to countries of the region and to countries like the United States outside the region,â€ Little said.
Defense Department officials have been in regular contact with international partners and countries in the region to express â€œour collective dismay at whatâ€™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 theyâ€™re doing against their own people,â€ the press secretary said.
â€œThatâ€™s of course the prudent thing to do,â€ Little added, â€œwhen you see a crisis like this in a very important region of the world.â€