More than a year after a wave of popular uprisings began across the Arab world, the White House spent Monday responding to the Arab Spring's fallout in Syria and Egypt.
Unlike in Egypt or Libya, where longtime despots were forced out of power, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has tightened his grip with a ruthless campaign of killing and torturing dissidents. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday denounced the crackdown in the strongest possible terms and joined Britain and France in supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution that would endorse an Arab League proposal calling for Assad to step down.
The status quo is unsustainable, Clinton said, according to The Associated Press. The longer the Assad regime continues its attacks on the Syrian people and stands in the way of a peaceful transition, the greater the concern that instability will escalate and spill over throughout the region.
Russia Refuses to Sign Resolution
Russia has refused to sign on to the resolution, with Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov telling the Interfax news agency it leaves open the possibility of intervention in Syrian affairs. Russia holds a veto as a permanent member of the Security Council and has remained a staunch supporter of Syria.
At a White House press conference, press secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration was intensely discussing with the Russians the real deterioration on the ground in Syria and predicted that Assad will inevitably fall.
Carney also said the administration has concerns and disappointments about an escalating diplomatic standoff with Egypt. Egyptian authorities have raided the offices of American-funded groups devoted to democracy-building and prohibited Americans working for those groups -- including the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood -- from leaving Egypt. President Barack Obama has warned Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the leader of Egypt's military government, that $1.3 billion in aid would be tied to concrete steps towards democratization, according to The New York Times.
It is the prerogative of Congress to say that our future military aid is going to be conditioned on a democratic transition, Michael H. Posner, an assistant secretary of state responsible for human rights issues, said at a previously scheduled press conference in Cairo on Thursday.
Egypt presents a formidable challenge for the Obama administration. Egypt has long been seen as a safeguard of regional stability because of its peace treaty with Israel, and America has provided the Egyptian military nearly $20 billion in aid since 1998. But the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which assumed control of the country when former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, has been slow to relinquish power and has engaged in abuses reminiscent of the Mubarak era.