Syrian state news reports that on Wednesday, a bomb in Damascus killed three officials in President Assad’s close circle. Reports indicate that Defense Minister Dawoud Rajhah, his deputy, Gen. Asef Shawkat, who is also brother-in-law to President Assad, and Gen. Hassan Turkomani were killed in a blast at the National Security Council building during a meeting with other officials.
The rebel group Free Syrian Army has taken credit for this attack. Also, the U.S. has imposed new financial sanctions on Syrian cabinet members.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, relations between the U.S. and Syria have grown increasingly complicated. In accordance with U.S. foreign policy, the following is a short list of reasons why the U.S. supports Assad’s ouster:
1) On July 13, 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Syrian government was moving chemical weapons out of storage. Field doctors are worried that weapons like cyanide, Sarin nerve agent, and mustard gas were used months ago against anti-government demonstrators.
2) In a press conference on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that violence in Syria is “rapidly spinning out of control.” He stated that the U.S. and the international community should cooperate with the UN to pressure Assad to resign.
3) On Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Department placed new economic sanctions against 29 government officials and 5 other companies associated with non-conventional weapons.
4) The ongoing violence puts Americans living abroad in danger. On July 11, 2011, an attack on the U.S. Embassy and the Ambassador’s home in Syria prompted the U.S. State Department to evacuate its citizens. On February 6, 2012, all embassy operations were suspended and remaining personnel were withdrawn.
5) Syria has allied itself with Palestinian resistance groups in Damascus and Iran. During the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria did not militarily intervene due to its ties with the Palestinian group.
6) Assad is not a favorable pick for American interests. Back in 2006, the Syrian government did not investigate an attack on the US embassy. Syria blamed the violence on terrorist groups and on the U.S. for its unpopular foreign policy.
7) During the Iraq War, Syria failed to prevent foreign militants from crossing its border with Iraq. In addition, Syria did not deport members of Saddam Hussein’s former regime.
8) Syria failed to maintain peace in the Middle East over the years. When evidence of a Syrian attempt to blow up an Israeli aircraft surfaced in 1986, the U.S. withdrew its ambassador and tightened sanctions on Syria.
9) Tensions flared when former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated in February 2005 in Beirut. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador to Syria shortly after.
10) A regime and policy change in Syria would open up trade opportunities with the US. Syria is unable to receive loans, exports, or US-made military equipment under the Syrian Accountability Act.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the death toll has gone over 17,000 since the uprising began in March 2011. President Assad shows no signs of lifting the crackdown on anti-government protesters.