Middle East

Syrian Protesters Wanted More From Obama's Speech

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/136487773/136487788" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In his speech Thursday, President Obama may have used some of his strongest language yet to pressure Syria's leader. But anti-government rebels say the speech represented an incremental improvement but not the breakthrough policy shift they were hoping for.

PETER KENYON: I'm Peter Kenyon in Beirut. President Obama may have used some of his strongest language, yet, to pressure Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, but for embattled anti-government rebels in Syria, yesterday's speech represented an incremental improvement, not the breakthrough policy shift they were hoping for.

From a Western viewpoint, the president's assertion that the Syrian leader must lead a transition to democracy or get out of the way had the ring of a hardening position that could soon lead to calls for him to step down. But opponents of the ruling Assad family first Hafez and now his son Bashar have heard American calls for reform before, and the regime has always managed to remain in power.

Analysts say Washington may be giving Assad a chance to demonstrate that this time he intends to follow through on his reform proposals, but activists remain skeptical. Assad maintains a tight grip on the army and the security forces, and he may be getting assistance from Syria's chief ally Iran. President Obama repeated that charge yesterday.

For pro-reform activists, perhaps the most promising parts of the president's speech were his demand that Syria stop shooting protesters and allow human rights workers into besieged cities and villages.

Anti-regime websites, meanwhile, are calling for another round of demonstrations today, which will provide the first indication of whether Syria intends to heed Mr. Obama's call to end violence against the protesters.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Beirut.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from