Yes, you read that title correctly. According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration is close to changing course on Syria and supporting the removal of Bashar Assad from power.
The decision has not yet been made — and this is likely a calculated leak meant to deliver a last warning to Assad — but this is nonetheless a huge change in policy. An official has told the AP: “we are getting close” to demanding the Syrian dictator’s resignation. Apparently the language is already being crafted, with the report stating: “The first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule.” This will be coupled with language supporting a transition towards democracy — a softer way of saying two words the Obama administration is so reluctant to utter: “regime change.”
Earlier this month, the French foreign minister publicly predicted Assad would fall if his regime continued its methods: “If the regime perseveres down this path, it will fall one day or another, but it will fall.” An advisor to President Sarkozy also said: “The crimes of the Syrian regime are on the same level as the crimes in Libya.”
The Israeli defense minister contradicted reports that Israel fears the fall of Assad, saying: “I don’t think Israel should be alarmed by the possibility of Assad being replaced,” and that he is “approaching the moment in which he will lose his authority … the more people are killed, the less chance Assad has to come out of it.” Israeli President Peres said in April: “I believe finally that a democratic system in Syria is our best bet for the future.”