Elliott Abrams, complained in Our Incoherence in the Face of Brutality that
The administration that said Ben Ali must go, then said Mubarak must go, and keeps saying Qaddafi must go cannot find a basis for saying that Asad must go.
and then pointed out
Beyond human rights, we have significant national-security interests in the demise of the Asad regime. It remains Iran’s only Arab ally, able and willing to trans-ship arms to Hezbollah and through Hezbollah control Lebanon and give Iran a border with Israel. The demise of Asad would mean a tremendous setback for the ayatollahs, and second only to the fall of the Islamic Republic would be a great gain for the United States in the Middle East. The sense throughout the Middle East that Iran has been growing in influence in the last decade, and that the “Arab Spring” brought it more opportunities, would be erased by the fall of Iran’s allies in Damascus.
So the United States should be more than “very concerned” and should not be urging Asad to “listen to the voices” of the Syrian people. We should be using every forum to denounce the Asad regime’s bloody repression and build momentum against it. The Obama administration’s reticence is the detritus of its failed “outreach” policy toward Asad, which led to the disastrous decision to send a U.S. ambassador to Damascus and make believe Asad was a “reformer.” Whether from a human-rights perspective or a realpolitik view, that policy should now be replaced by a determined drive to bring down this regime.
The fall of Assad doesn’t necessarily mean that the new Syria would change its policies. But the potential is there.
— Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was the deputy national security adviser handling the Middle East in the George W. Bush administration.