After months spent turning up the heat on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Obama administration is finally ready to demand his departure. Officials tell the AP that the White House's new, tougher line will come tomorrow or by the end of the week, as a direct response to Assad's increasingly ruthless crackdown on protesters. The Treasury Department will also expand sanctions against Assad and his cronies.
Obama had previously said Assad "lost legitimacy" as a leader and that he should lead a transition to democracy "or get out of the way," but until now has not explicitly called for him to step down. The AP notes that while the move in some ways confirms the obvious, its bluntness is an indication of how fed up the White House is: Yesterday, the State Department said that after two years, the administration's attempts to engage and partner with Assad are over.