As Syrian Regime Sends Tanks Against Citizens, Obama Ponders Sanctions

Washington – The United States is considering seeking targeted sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime amid reports that it unleashed tanks and troops in an escalating crackdown on a peaceful nationwide uprising, the White House said Monday. The announcement came amid criticism of the Obama administration for refraining from mounting the same kind of aggressive response to Assad’s bloody onslaught against the pro-reform protests as it did to the use of force against demonstrators in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

“The brutal violence used by the government of Syria against its people is completely deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. “The United States is pursuing a range of possible policy options, including targeted sanctions, to respond to the crackdown and make clear that this behavior is unacceptable.”

“The Syrian people’s call for freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the ability to freely choose their leaders must be heard,” Vietor said.

He did not elaborate on what kind of sanctions were under consideration. Nor did he indicate whether they involved unilateral U.S. measures or if the administration planned to ask the U.N. Security Council to impose international sanctions on Syria.

The administration last week charged that Syria was soliciting the assistance of Iran, which brutally suppressed its own nationwide anti-government protests, to crush the uprising. Vietor’s announcement came amid reports _ bolstered by videos posted on YouTube and other Internet sites _ that the regime on Monday dispatched tanks and soldiers into Daraa, the southern city where the peaceful rebellion against four decades of Assad family rule erupted in March.

The uprising has spread across the country, and more than 300 people are estimated to have been killed by security forces and pro-regime thugs using live ammunition and clubs.

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations to launch an inquiry into what it called the fatal shooting on Saturday of peaceful protesters in 14 towns and cities across Syria. The violence came as funerals were held for scores of people killed during protests a day earlier.

“The inquiry should also examine other human rights violations committed since anti-government protests began in mid-March,” said the New York-based organization.

It called on the United States and European Union to impose sanctions “on Syrian officials who bear responsibility for the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters and the arbitrary detention and torture of hundreds of protesters, as well as request an urgent briefing of the UN Security Council on the spiraling situation in the country.”

This article, “As Syrian Regime Sends Tanks Against Citizens, Obama Ponders Sanctions,” first appeared at McClatchy Newspapers.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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