Syrian refugee boys chant slogans during a protest, from behind a fence at the Turkish Red Crescent camp in the Altinozu district of Hatay, 30 kilometers from the Syrian border, on June 17, 2011. Nearly 10,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey fleeing a crackdown by the Damascus regime
Because of his strong lobbying network, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad succeeded in defusing anger against him across different world capitals, from Ankara to Paris to Washington. But there is only so much lobbying can do in the face of the flood of pictures of Assad security forces' brutalizing peaceful protesters. The mood has already turned against Assad in several capitals. In Washington, all signs indicate that America is coming around, albeit slower than usual.
The Washington Post was the first to call on Obama to come to the rescue of Syrian civilians. While the Post did not suggest that America or the West should take military action against Assad, the newspaper said that the United States enjoyed a wide array of tools—all non-military—that could topple the balance in favor of the Syrian rebels.
Next came The New York Times. In an editorial, America's most prestigious daily called on Assad to step down and argued that Washington should endorse its call. A few days later, another editorial also demanded that Assad step down, this time from former Department of State Spokesperson Philip Crowley who wrote that it was time to tell Assad to go.
"There is no plausible expectation that Assad will lead a process of reform, one that inevitably forces him and his cronies out of business. This US caution reflects fear of the unknown and what might come next," Crowley wrote. "We cannot solve the Syrian challenge overnight, but it is time to get off the fence and on the right side of history," he concluded.
But despite a shifting mood in Washington, the White House is still betting on Assad. According to the readout of a phone call between Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Assad's third speech since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in mid March: "The leaders agreed that the Syrian government must end the use of violence now and promptly enact meaningful reforms that respect the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people."
While Washington has moved beyond Assad, Obama stands behind the curve. But with the mounting pressure in America and worldwide because of the world's growing sympathy with the peaceful protesters, there are no guarantees that Washington will stay on the fence for long—as many predict that it will jump soon and take the side against Assad.