Clinton meets with Syrian opposition

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met this morning with members of the U.S.-based Syrian opposition. The meeting came as the United States intensified its condemnation of Bashar al-Assad's continuing crackdown on anti-government unrest.

The Syrian regime's "assault on civilians" highlights "again the brutality and viciousness of the Assad regime," Clinton said in a statement released by the State Department yesterday.

"As I have said before, President Assad has lost his legitimacy with the Syrian people," Clinton's statement continued. "Syria will be a better place when a democratic transition goes forward."

Clinton's meeting at the State Department at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday included Radwan Ziadeh, an analyst based at George Washington University, Mohammad Alabdalla, and others who wished for their names not to be published out of concern over retribution against their families by the Syrian regime.

The delegation of U.S.-based Syrian opposition members and Syrian-American activists "is scheduled to discuss the ongoing assaults and violations on Syrians, specifically the recent attacks on the cities of Hama, Deir ez-Zor, and other Syrian cities," Ziadeh said in a press release to journalists.

The U.S. and European allies have struggled to forge an effective international response to the Syrian bloodshed. On Monday evening, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss Syria, but did not agree on a resolution condemning the violence. Diplomats suggested the Council would take up further discussion today about possibly approving a lesser form of condemnation of the violence, such as a press statement from the Council.

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford is due to have a nomination hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ford is a veteran diplomat and fluent Arab speaker who previously served as deputy U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He has had a "recess appointment" to Damascus since Republicans previously refused to confirm his nomination, complaining that sending an ambassador to Damascus rewards the Assad regime. But Ford made a high-profile visit last month to Hama, the major site of protests and Assad's recent crackdown, where he was treated as a hero by anti-government protesters.