Clinton Urges Post-Assad Syrian Transition Plan
By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
August 7, 2012
With Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad facing more high-level defections and a better coordinated opposition, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it is time for Syrians and their supporters in the international community to plan for what will happen once the Assad regime falls.
Speaking in Pretoria, South Africa, August 7, Clinton said, “It is a very difficult time for the people of Syria who are caught in this terrible violence.”
After 17 months of conflict, “we must figure out ways to hasten the day when the bloodshed ends and the political transition begins,” she said.
“We have to make sure that the state’s institutions stay intact. We have to make sure that we send very clear expectations about avoiding sectarian warfare. Those who are attempting to exploit the misery of the Syrian people, either by sending in proxies or sending in terrorist fighters, must recognize that that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people,” Clinton said.
The secretary’s remarks came a day after Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected to Jordan, making him the highest-level official so far to leave the Assad regime. In an August 6 statement, Hijab denounced Assad’s “terrorist regime” and said he was joining the Syrian opposition.
State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell told reporters August 6 that in recent days Colonel Yarub Shara, a senior Syrian intelligence officer, had defected to Jordan along with two government ministers and three brigadier generals. He also said Syria’s first astronaut, Mohammad Ahmad Faris, had fled to Turkey and joined opposition forces there.
“These defections … indicate that the regime is crumbling and losing its grip on power,” Ventrell said. “We encourage others to join them in rejecting the horrific actions of the Assad regime and helping to chart a new path for Syria, one that is peaceful, democratic, inclusive and just.”
Ventrell said the Obama administration believes that “now is the time” for members of the Assad regime to “peel away … [and] get off of the sinking ship.”
Clinton said August 7 that the defections, as well as the intensity of the fighting around Aleppo, “really point out how imperative it is that we come together and work toward a good transition plan.”
She said the Syrian opposition “is becoming increasingly coordinated and effective,” and it reportedly holds territory from northern Aleppo to the Turkish border. It has also seized weapons from the Assad regime, including tanks.
Although U.S. officials cannot predict when Assad will fall, “it’s going to happen,” Clinton said, and the United States wants to support “a Syrian-led democratic transition that protects the rights of all Syrians,” as well as the return of security and public safety to the country and ways to restart the Syrian economy.
Clinton said she plans to be in Istanbul August 11 for discussions with Turkish officials regarding those issues and humanitarian support for Syrian refugees.