William Cohen says President will use second term to put more pressure on embattled regime
Re-elected US President Barack Obama will take a tougher stance on the Syrian civil war during his second term and will use the US’s leverage with Gulf states to help resolve the conflict, former US Secretary of Defence William Cohen told Arabian Business.
“My own view is he will take a tougher position with Syria now, I think he will try and work through the UAE, the Saudis and others to bring about a change and I don’t think the United States will continue to sit back and just let the [terror] take place,” said Cohen, Secretary of Defence from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.
US TV networks on Wednesday morning UAE time declared President Obama had defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Cohen said a second term Obama administration will now be under pressure to take a stand against the Bashar Al-Assad regime, whose battle against a 20-month long uprising has seen approximately 30,000 on both sides killed.
“The pressure will be on him to do more… There will be an international effort made and I think the US will join in that in a more significant way," Cohen said.
“I think he was very careful not to be seen to be initiating a third war in a Muslim country… He will do more with the Saudis and the UAE,” he added.
After months of criticism that his administration had been too soft on Syria’s government, President Obama in August led a choreographed call by Western governments for President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.
Al-Assad’s pledges of reform have “rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people,” he said. “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President al-Assad to step aside.”
The president has continued to maintain this policy, reaffirming calls for al-Assad to step down during the final debate with Romney, adding that he is “confident Assad’s days are numbered”.
He has previously stressed that “Syrians are going to have to determine their own future” and has backed initiates to provide non-lethal aid, training to the rebels and supported efforts by other countries to send arms.
Asked how he would have felt about a victory for Republicans and a President Mitt Romney, Cohen said he “would have had concerns about his foreign policy”.
Romney's foreign policy on the Middle East had included taking a tougher stance against Iran's disputed nuclear programme and strengthening ties with traditional US ally Israel.