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Obama's reset button not working for Syria

The Obama administration is justifiably proud of how it has managed to "reset" relations with Russia, and how it has managed to build international pressure against Iran after its efforts at engagement were spurned.

But the reset button for Syria seems to have failed, if the latest remarks by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are any indication.

In an interview published Tuesday in al-Hayat newspaper, Assad said that the United States has created chaos in every place it entered. The remarks appeared to be a sharp rebuke after the administration has dispatched various diplomats to Damascus in an effort to wean him from the Iranian camp and to draw him into peace talks with Israel.

"Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?" Assad asked, referring to U.S. intervention in Lebanon's 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley fired back quickly, suggesting the administration has lost patience with Assad as well. "We believe we're playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not," he said in a lengthy and detailed critique of Syrian behavior.

In the interview, Assad also warned that possible indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could lead to a civil war in Lebanon.
"Any clash at any time between any group will sabotage Lebanon and destroy it," he said.

Crowley said Syria was the root of problems in Lebanon. Syrian actions "directly undermine Lebanon sovereignty and directly undermine Syria's stated commitments, you know, to Lebanon's sovereignty and independence," he said.

The administration has also nominated an ambassador to Syria -- which the Bush administration had withdrawn after the Hariri killing -- but that has stalled in the Senate.

Please continue for the full text of Crowley statement.

P.J. Crowley's full statement in response to the Assad interview:

"President Assad is within his right to provide, you know, his critique. You know, let me do the same.

"Recent Syrian behavior and rhetoric has had a destabilizing effect on Lebanon and the region. It has contributed to, you know, recent, you know, tensions. We understand that, you know, certain actors within and outside Lebanon, including Syria, Hezbollah and Iran, may believe they stand to gain by escalating sectarian tensions in an attempt to assert their own authority over Lebanon. You know, for example, Syria continues to transfer weapons to Hezbollah, and recently issued arrest warrants for 33 Lebanese and foreign nationals, including the Lebanese government state prosecutor and head of the national police.

"These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon sovereignty and directly undermine Syria's stated commitments, you know, to Lebanon's sovereignty and independence. So if the issue is, you know, who is playing a more constructive role in the region, you know, we stand by our pledge to support a sovereign, stable and independent Lebanon, with strong Lebanese institutions as the only way to realize the best interests of the Lebanese people and the region as a whole.

"We believe we're playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not."

By Glenn Kessler  | October 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
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"We believe we're playing a constructive role in the area..." Say what? How can they say this stuff with a straight face? We've killed virtually hundreds of thousands of people, left Iraq a trashed, smoking disater, given our puppet-masters, the Israelis, tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons to periodicly invade and terrorize their neighbors, let Israel steal meterial and technology to make some 200 atom bombs and enabled Israel to keep millions of people famished and imprisoned, after stealing their land and water. THIS is a constructive role?

Posted by: alfa67 | October 27, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse


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Posted by: jiajia1333 | October 27, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Since the presidency of Reagan, US policy towards Syria has been one of hostility. Syria was one of the neocons target--Iraq, Syria and Iran. A central reason for the US hostility is Israel. The supporters of Israel--the neocons--have made any Syrian-US rapprochement all but impossible. The appointment of an ambassador is worthless when that ambassador is prohibited from going to his station. Keeping Syria on the terror list, erecting obstacles to Syria’s economic dealings with other countries, failure to condemn Israel for its attacks on Syria, and ignoring the illegal occupation of the Golan Heights are pretty good signs that the US is not seriously interested in reaching an agreement with Syria. Having botched the job in Iraq, an endless war in Afghanistan, growing animosity with Pakistan, secret wars in Yemen and Africa, Bahsir Assad sounds like he hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: dmaak | October 27, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Drink every time PJ Crowley says "you know"

Posted by: GFisher1 | October 27, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Gee, maybe we should do Israel's bidding once again and start yet another war against an Islamic country.

Posted by: Thoughtful-Ted | October 27, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It is really embarrassing to have someone like Crowley as a State Department spokesman. Did he even finish high school? How many repetitions of "you know" does he need to say anything? Well, since his boss Hillary Clinton is a total liar about Iran and Syria, one cannot expect anything sensible from her spokesman. These people live in a dreamworld. The US policy in the Middle East is simply pathetic.

Posted by: quinterius | October 27, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Crowley, as the official voice of the Foreign Policy of the United States of America DESPERATELY NEEDS A VOCAL COACH -- to rid him of the annoying, and highly immature use of the verbal tic (as well as can be argued, the mental tic): that profuse usage of, that over-sprinkling of, that undeniable crutch by highly-liberal reference to the phase:
----------------------------->> "Y O U____K N O W" !!!

I mean, please, can the USA be represented by a man whose position *should* call for a person that can speak, without notes, and without the use of high-school level crutches like "you know."

I suppose we should all be happy that he doesn't use the other oft used other crutch, "like" or worse, "like, you know" -- that would be a true catastrophe of "Valley Girl" proportions.

But it seems to me that this is a matter of the State Department NOT making it a CLEAR and UNAMBIGUOUS necessitiy, skill, and requirement that any person applying for (or appointed to) the job of spokesperson be able to speak without, or with very few notes (unlike out current President) *and* without the use of ANY verbal tics or crutches.

It simply makes the entire administration (and thus the country) look amateurish. And that's the saddest part of it all.

I have no ill will towards Mr Crowley and wish him well, but State ought to be hiring him a vocal coach ASAP or replace him, pure and simple.

Posted by: FrumiousFalafel | October 28, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

As an addendum to my previous comment, I wished to add, "you know?"

Posted by: FrumiousFalafel | October 28, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

P.J. Crowley is a cretin to be sure, reflecting his bosses' intelligent, but misplaced emphasis on "reset" as well as a cretin can. "You know..." stands for the lapses in his brain due to heavy alcohol/drug use unless, of course, he has an IQ of less than 70.

Syria is always going to be a troublemaker and all the anti-semites above will try to absolve it from all its crimes, including setting up that clandestine nuke facility the Israelis carpet-bombed with GWB's okay. Now that we have a totally stupid POTUS and SecState, all bets are off and a nasty collection of misfits like Syria, which I've visited many times, will be given more leeway than it should have.

Posted by: djman1141 | October 29, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

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