Moral Low Ground

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Obama Calls on Syrian President Bashar Assad to Resign

President Barack Obama today called on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to resign amid his government’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

According to ABC News, the U.S. also ratcheted up sanctions against the Syrian regime, with Obama issuing an executive order effecting a freeze on Syrian assets under American jurisdiction.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way,” Obama declared. “His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people … For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

Obama’s call was joined by the European Union, with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain releasing a statement imploring Assad to “leave power in the greater interests of Syria and the unity of its people.”

As for Syrian assets, Obama’s executive order mandates the “immediate freeze of all assets of the government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the government of Syria.”

These moves come amid a brutal crackdown by Syrian security forces against anti-government protesters in towns and cities across the nation of 21.1 million people. The United Nations says that more than 2,000 people have been killed since the demonstrations began in March of this year.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is likely to recommend that the U.N. Security Council refer Assad to the International Criminal Court for his role in the deadly crackdown.

Critics of President Obama wonder what took him so long to call for Assad’s resignation. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the President should have acted sooner.

“It has taken President Obama far too long to speak out forcefully against Assad,” the GOP frontrunner said.

But administration officials counter that they were acting on the advice of allies like Turkey, which urged the U.S. refrain from calling for Assad’s resignation while diplomacy was given a chance to produce results. That approach, however, is clearly not working.

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