US President Barack Obama made a policy speech last May 19 regarding the events that have unfolded in Syria. Obama directed the message to embattled Syrian president Bashar Assad telling him to make immediate action toward a political transition or, in his words, “get out of the way.” This is a clear statement from Washington not only condemning the violence used by Assad’s security forces against the pro-democracy protesters but also a support to Assad’s ouster as the country’s leader.

Assad quickly dismissed Obama’s remarks as a ploy to incite more violence from the protesters. Clearly, the US president’s strong warning had no effect whatsoever with the ruling clan in Syria, who have been in power since 1971, as more killings by the Syrian security forces are being reported. Media coverage has remained very limited because of the government’s crackdown on foreign journalists covering the unrest that started in March right after the dramatic events in Tunisia and Egypt.

Latest reports say that Syrian tanks are now pushing into villages and towns such as Talbiseh, Rastan, and Homs to attack anti-government protesters killing at least 11 civilians and leaving scores wounded. Unconfirmed reports tell that around 830 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the start of the uprising.

Beyond the criticism and sanctions issued by the Washington and Brussels to Assad and other senior officials, the West has kept silent regarding the option of military action taken against the Arab nation. The United Nations is currently not yet discussing the possibility of a Security Council vote on Syria, not at least until the month of May ends, coinciding with the end of France’s leadership of the council.

Unlike with the case of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, several Western officials admit they are unable to take strong military action against the Syrian government’s systematic crackdown of their citizens simply because the proposal have yet to secure the backing of the Arab League, which has up to now continued to remain uncharacteristically silent about the issue. Some see this as the reason behind why the ruling elite refuse to bow down to US demands because the Americans never really had the needed leverage with which to influence the regime to begin with.

Others point to the lack of a clear successor to Assad once he steps down. There is that fear expressed by many Middle East observers that the multi-ethnic state will fall into a chaos due to a political vacuum when the Assad leaves without a clear successor. As the opposition has yet to bring forth a credible candidate to replace the long-serving leader and would unite the various political rivals as well as the many religious and ethnic communities in the country, many are doubtful that the West will show enough commitment the pro-democracy movement in Syria.