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September 24th, 2013
07:03 PM ET

U.S. must keep pressure on Assad, says Syrian opposition member

At the United Nations Tuesday, President Barack Obama gave no indication of a U.S. strike against Syria, and announced the U.S. would be giving an additional $340 million in humanitarian aid for the Syrian crisis.

He also called for the U.N. to take chemical weapons out of the Syrian regime's hands.

Louay Safi, a member of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, has been disappointed by Obama in the past, calling it it a failure in leadership when he didn't strike Syria.

But he called Tuesday's speech at the U.N. "positive."

"He emphasized the enforcement of this removal of chemical weapons under Security Council resolution. We look forward to see that," said Safi.

"I would have loved to see him talk more about stopping the regime from using heavy weaponry like air force and ballistic missiles to deal with the opposition. That has not been addressed. But overall, it was a positive speech," said Safi.

The focus on a political solution, forcing the regime to go to the negotiating table and transfer power to a democratic government, was also something Safi welcomed.

But the chance for a political solution seems slim; Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not willingly relinquish his power.

"He will not do that voluntarily. He has to be under pressure. There must be a threat. Remember that when he was threatened with military action, he surrendered what he called his strategic weapon overnight," said Safi.

"Another forceful action on the part of the United States, he would have to negotiate surrendering the power to democratic government," said Safi.

The U.S.-Russia discussion on how to rid Syria of its stockpile of chemical weapons is not going very smoothly. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are having a tough time
coming up with something that both sides can agree on.

"The Russians have made their decision to stand by Bashar. They know the dictator, they will stand by the dictator. Remove him and the whole thing collapses," said Safi.

Safi said Assad's regime is "elusive" and will try and evade and prolong the diplomatic talks for as long as possible.

"They want to gain time so that they can punish the opposition further," said Safi. "They are hopeful that they can see surrendering. That will not happen, but that will prolong the agony of the Syrian people."

One of the concerns the American people have about the Syrian opposition is that it is fractured, with some of having ties to terrorist groups.

The Dallas Morning News raised questions about some of Safi's relationships, which he deflected, saying the criticism is unfounded.

"I personally have been targeted by the far right, I guess part of seeing every Muslim as a dangerous person in this country," said Safi. "I think that's their strategy."

"But if you go after anything they claim, it has no foundation," said Safi.

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