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February 7th, 2012
03:22 PM ET

BLITZER’S BLOG: U.S. to al-Assad: “Your days are numbered”

By Wolf Blitzer, CNN

(CNN) - The situation in Syria is exploding with death and destruction.

The United Nations now says 6,000 people have been killed since demonstrations erupted almost a year ago, and opposition activists say the death toll has topped 7,000. Many of the victims have been peaceful activists.

Tens of thousands have been injured. Thousands have been arrested; others have simply disappeared. And beyond that, thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring Turkey, Jordan and even Iraq.

This is truly an international disaster.

In the meantime, the United Nations Security Council can’t even pass a simple resolution demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down. That’s because of a Russian and Chinese veto.

The Russians continue to provide weapons to the Damascus regime, even while the violence continues, although the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. tells me the Russians support the Syrians “for the time being.”

Ambassador Susan Rice says she believes al-Assad’s days are numbered. When I asked her if the U.S. would support arming the opposition, as Sen. John McCain and others have suggested, she said, “our strong preference is not to fuel what has the potential to become a full-blown civil war. Assad is off the reservation. …”

She also hinted that the United States is indeed considering all its options, saying, “before we start talking about military options, we very much want to ensure that we have exhausted all of the political, economic and diplomatic means at our disposal."

As we all know, there is no real appetite in the U.S. or among the NATO allies to take direct military action, even along the lines of what was done most recently in Libya (“the no-fly zone”) and back in the 1990s in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The Arab world, the Europeans and the United States can certainly intensify the diplomatic and economic pressure on the al-Assad regime, but these kinds of sanctions are unlikely to achieve much, given the economic and diplomatic support the Damascus government receives from Russia, China, Iran, Lebanon and even from the supposedly pro-U.S. Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Amid all this, the al-Assad regime is stepping up its military assault on the anti-regime forces.

The U.S. is certainly using stronger language. When I asked Rice to look into the camera and speak directly to al-Assad, this is what she said:

“The United States stands with the people of Syria, fully and unequivocally, in their aspirations for peace for democracy and for a brighter future. Your days are numbered, and it is time and past time for you to transfer power responsibly and peacefully. The longer you hang on, the more damage you do yourself, your family, your interest and indeed your country."

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RELATED: Slaughter in Syria: Rocket attacks, blood in the streets and a relentless fight for freedom

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Filed under: Syria • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Rich

    Anytime people turn against their government there is going to be bloodshed. In 1982 it was religious factions and insurgents/militants that turned on the regime. The course of action was to wipe them all out. It was very effective and ended the fighting. Unfortunately it also ended close to 25,000 peoples lives.

    A lot of the problem in Syria is a a direct result of the war in Iraq. Over 2 million people fled Iraq into Syria when America attacked. This attack on Iraq displaced many people and caused catastrophic problems in Syria. There were no jobs, no food, no place to live and no future. What did people have to lose by fighting? They were already torn from their homeland by force or fear.

    Now the world waits which is exactly what it should do. Any type of military action by the United States or others would displace people even more into Turkey and Iran. Arming the militants would only get more people killed. The militants refuse to give up and the Syrian military refuses to step down. The military has the upper hand so the likelihood is that the militants will eventually leave or the community will turn on the militants. Many people are still very loyal to Al Assad

    February 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Casaoui

      So it seems since the regime got away with murdering its own people in the past, the world should let it do it again with impunity. There is no room for such barbarism in 21st century as was clearly demonstrated by events in Tunisia, Libia and Yemen (Egypt remains the same sans Mubarak). History is on the side of the oppressed masses throughout Syria. Arab League is as impotent as ever as long as it is headed by princes, kings and dictators.

      This is not the time for hypocrisy or cowardice. It is time for the west to act in the name of human rights and take the necessary actions to put an end to the Assad regime by any means necessary. It is also time for the arab peoples and freedom-loving people around the worl to lend support to the syrian people by making their voices heard.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  2. alberto

    I think Assad had not learn lesson of what happen to Saddam Qaddafi, until he ends up like them he will never stop killing its own people. Please tell to him to take the wisdom of wisdom Mubarak,Ben Ali and the Yemen president whom I can't remember the name now before its to late for him.

    February 8, 2012 at 3:42 am |
  3. Vicente Lopez

    This has NOTHING to do with democracy. The Sunni fundamentalist want to get rid of the Alawites. They are FULLY ARMED with thousands of Army defectors and weapons from Israel and Turkey. If they win they will MASACRE the Allawites and the CHRISTIANS in Syria. Wolf just discredited himself as journalist by SIDING with the so call "activist". There are VERY FEW activist. There are MANY FULLY ARMED REBEL FIGTHERS that want to take over the country to replace the Allawite government with a SUNNI dictatopshio/Theocracy. The CHRISTIANS will be killed just as in Iraq!! WAKE UP!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Casaoui

      This is not a religious or sectarian conflict. This is a movement of liberation from a tyranical regime. Portraying this conflict as anything else is oure propaganda. Any government that attacks and kills its own citizens for excercising their basic human rights has no ligitimacy whatsover.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  4. Audrey Fryer

    When the USA overplayed their no-fly-zone mandate, in the Libya fiasco, they established a precedent. Sending in US troops is going to solve what – we can kill these people better than they can? You don't get excited by the people in Yemen being slaughtered and in fact bring their President to this Country for medical treatment and give him immunity from prosecution – so why the feigned outrage over Syria.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  5. T. Lee

    Rice: "Blah, blah, ba-blah" – so whre's NATO ?

    Gadhafi a "soft" target and so you mounted all the rhetoric of "save the people" but do nothing for the Syrian people getting slaughtered by a regime doing a 1000 times worse than Gadhafi?

    Double standard!

    February 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  6. Roger Isom

    The slaughter in Syria is ENTIRELY OTHUGO'S FAULT... his FAILED CAIRO SPEECH LED TO THESE DEATHSand as a RESULT I have NO QUALMS over letting the SYRIANS take their WRATH OUT ON HIM.... for he WILL DO NOTHING and we WILL HAVE a RWANDA II DEBACLE on our hands AGAIN!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  7. Jon

    So here's a fun bit of info I just came across – back in December, a bunch of emails sent to Assad by a press attache got leaked by hackers to the Israeli paper Haaretz. haaretz (dot) com/print-edition/news/bashar-assad-emails-leaked-tips-for-abc-interview-revealed-1.411445. Key bits and pieces:

    "[The] American Psyche can be easily manipulated... The Americans now believe that their government has failed two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are asking their government to stop interfering in other countries businesses and sovereignty and to start taking care of the American internal issues."

    Saw us coming, didn't they?

    February 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  8. joesmith

    any attempt militarily, by the United States, is just an excuse to provoke Iran, and give cart blanch to Israel to attack Iran..could be Assad is bating everyone..

    February 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  9. Juanita

    Something needs to be done to help Syria. I just watched your report and feel absolutely overwhelmed of what those poor opposition forces face. The comparison between 30 years ago and today blew me out of the water!! Attack those tanks surrounding the city and give those people HELP!!

    February 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  10. Janice Smith - California

    My heart goes out to the people of syria but the countries they should be appealing to are china and Russia because they are the ones who keep voting to side with Assad. they should be asking the Arab countries to help. As soon as the US tries to rescue the situation it becomes a whole other political animal. We will have to do as we did in Libya and wait for other countries to agree to go in with us. We can't plice the world...unfortunately.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  11. Philip Hades

    The Arab League needs to say "we want your help stopping this" and then we need to send in as many A-10 Warthogs and Apaches as it takes to wipe out his armour.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  12. Griff

    "You've had thousands die for Iraq, yet you just walk away without trying to find an alliance between Turkey and it's neighbor in northern iraq. If you could b ridge a peace between them, then you's also find a cause to help Syria. But just so long as Obama's Muslims see him in control of a Super-Power. Russia and China (yes and even Canada), find compleat ignorance by the USA, on what is really the problem!"

    February 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  13. Nadia Saccardi

    In regards to the big debate on women's right to decide on birth control and abortion issues: Men should absolutely stay out of it, once and for all, catholic or not. This IS a gender issue...

    February 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • dave

      Syria has an abortion issue?

      February 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • dave

      Syria has an abortion issue? I didn't know that was an issue with all of the rockets and missles landing on all of the people.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Phil in KC

    When you start killing children, you have already lost.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  15. Griff

    "The middle east just destroys it'self, because they're sick on religion. The arab's are that stupid, they actually think they're smart. Just like the Idiotic Arabs on the west-bank. They have no sense of direction, and just follow the stars in the sky. Domestic animals have more sense!"

    February 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  16. Truth and Nothing But The Truth

    So what can the Arab world, the Europeans and the United States do?
    Why hasn't the Messiah simply invited Assad to the Whitehouse for a state dinner and spoken to him? I'm sure it be as easy as that. Assad would see the light shown by The One and grant his every wish. Yes, that should be the plan. It'll be the "Obama Leading with h'orderves" plan.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  17. CJ

    Syrians have made it clear they will never stop, no matter how bad the slaughter gets. They will struggle on, and they will remember who didn't help them in their time of need. We must help them-now.

    February 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Almayahi

      CJ you have good point , I agree with you

      February 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm |

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