Officials said any U.S. action against Assad would be coordinated with
the United Nations, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the administration was also consulting with
allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey, deemed as having influence
Officials said the White House and State
Department were considering sanctions against Assad, but indicated that this
was not immediate.
"At present, the options that we are focused on are diplomatic and
financial options," State Department policy planning director Jacob Sullivan
In a briefing on April 26, Sullivan acknowledged that the administration
regarded Syria differently from Libya. In Libya, the administration
supported a lead U.S. role in a no-fly zone to stop the killing of those
opposed to Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
In contrast, the administration, stunned by the rapid escalation in the
protests and the ensuing regime violence, has done little more than
Assad for the killing of more than 500 protesters over the last 40 days.
Regarding Egypt, Obama called for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak
within a week, a move that sparked tension with Cairo's ally, Saudi Arabia.
"From our perspective, we have to take each of the countries in this
region on its own terms and consider the range of policy options we have
available to us unilaterally as the United States and multilaterally in
concert with other countries and with international organizations," Sullivan
One U.S. option against the Assad regime was sanctions. Sullivan
said the administration was discussing sanctions against unidentified
members of the Assad regime in an effort to promote democratic reforms.
"But the core that there needs to be meaningful political reform, that
there has to be an end to violence perpetrated by governments against their
own citizens," Sullivan said. "And that there has to be a respect for and an
adherence to the universal rights to include freedom of assembly, speech,
religion, and so forth, these are things that are guiding our approach to
Syria, and we've been unequivocal about them."
"We are talking to our European friends about what tools we have
available to address the situation in Syria," Sullivan said.
On April 27, the Turkish daily Sabah said CIA director Leon Panetta has
been in Ankara for the last five days in secret discussions on Syria.
Officials said both Ankara and Washington agreed that Syria must be treated
differently than Libya.
"They will be different in terms of action that is feasible and indeed
desirable from the Security Council," U.S. envoy to the UN Susan Rice said.
Officials said many in Congress agree with the administration's
non-interventionist approach. They said U.S. troops, whether alone or as
part of an international mission, would meet fierce resistance from both the
Assad regime as well as Al Qaida elements in Syria.
"I don't see a way that we could intervene militarily," Sen. John
McCain, an Arizona Republican who just returned from Libya, said. "I think
it would be very risky, and I don't know if we could stop the terrible behavior of Bashar Assad."