Syria is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.Politico: Jon Kyl criticizes White House on Syria
The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.
The population of Syria is 74% Sunni Muslim, with a 13% Shia and Alawite population, 10% non-Muslim Christian and 3% Druze minorities. Since the 1960s, Alawite military officers have tended to dominate the country's politics. Some 90% of the population is Muslim, which includes Arabs, Kurds, Circassians, and others, while some 10% are Christians, which includes Arabs, Assyrians/Syriacs, and Armenians. Ethnic minorities include Kurdish, Assyrian/Syriac, Armenian, Turkmen, and Circassian populations.
The modern Syrian state was established as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was rocky, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949-1970. Syria has been under Emergency Law from 1962–2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic. Since 1971 the power has been concentrated first to Hafez al-Assad and then to his son Bashar al-Assad.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) called on the White House to withdraw the U.S. ambassador to Syria, freeze Syrian assets and impose sanctions on “any entity” involved in cooperation between the Syrian and Iranian governments.
Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, issued the critical statement on the administration’s response to the Bashar al-Assad government a day after the White House issued a travel warning for American citizens in the embattled country.
It has done little to aid the Syrian people who are being brutalized by the Assad regime — reportedly over 400 people have been killed by the regime in recent protests,” Kyl said. “At a minimum, the administration should recall Ambassador Ford, impose asset freezes and travel bans in cooperation with our European allies, and sanction any entity involved in cooperation between the Iranian leadership and the Assad regime.”
Kyl’s statement Wednesday was the latest development in what could prove to be a difficult few weeks for both the White House and Congress as lawmakers decide whether they need to meet a late-May deadline for authorizing military involvement in Libya.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have faced tough questions from lawmakers on why the U.S. has engaged militarily in Libya, but not Syria.
Kyl, who already announced his retirement from the Senate at the end of this term, challenged the president directly.
“President Obama should be proud to ally the United States with Syrians who are rising up against their tyrant,” Kyl said.