On August 18, 2011, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on President Bashar al-Asad of Syria to step aside for the sake of the Syrian people. Secretary Clinton said:
"For months, the world has borne witness to the Asad regime's contempt for its own people. In peaceful demonstrations across the nation, Syrians are demanding their universal human rights. The regime has answered their demands with empty promises and horrific violence, torturing opposition leaders, laying siege to cities, slaughtering thousands of unarmed civilians, including children.
"The Asad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the world and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.
"This morning, President Obama called on Asad to step aside and announced the strongest set of sanctions to date targeting the Syrian Government. These sanctions include the energy sector to increase pressure on the regime. The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it's time for Asad to get out of the way. As President Obama said this morning, no outside power can or should impose on this transition. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders in a democratic system based on the rule of law and dedicated to protecting the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sect, or gender.
"We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes. At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive. And we will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime and Asad personally to get out of the way of this transition."
Last week, Secretary Clinton also joined Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for a conversation at the National Defense University, where they discussed the budget, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Secretary Clinton said:
"...One of the goals that Secretary Gates and now Secretary Panetta and I have is to make the case as to what national security in the 21st century actually is. It is, of course, the strongest military in the world that has to be given the tools to do the jobs we send it out to do. It is our diplomatic corps, which is out there on the front lines all the time, trying to deal with very difficult situations to the betterment of America's national interest and security. And it is our development experts who put another face on American power, who are trying to deliver, as we speak, aid to 12 million people in the Horn of Africa who are facing famine and starvation."
In recognition of World Humanitarian Day, Secretary Clinton honored aid workers who make a difference around the world, including in the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg spotlighted 100 ways one can help the people affected by the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Meanwhile, Deputy Special Representative for Global Partnerships Jim Thompson highlighted a new initiative in which one can help identify innovations that have the potential to transform current energy systems and help support a more sustainable future.
Under the auspices of another Global Partnership Initiative, the United States is helping to combat the dangers of unclean cookstoves. Exposure to smoke from unclean cookstoves causes nearly two million premature deaths annually and is a major contributor to preventable noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as chronic respiratory illnesses and lung cancer. NCDs kill over 35 million people worldwide each year. The enormous challenges posed by NCDs will frame a high-level meeting at this year's UN General Assembly in September.
In other health news, the United States is partnering with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay at both the government to government and investigator levels to fight breast cancer. The United States is also working to advance infant and maternal health in Pakistan, where fewer than 40 percent of women receive skilled medical care during childbirth. To address this issue, USAID is supporting the renovation of women's hospitals across Pakistan.
Tragically, on August 19, 2011, terrorists attacked worshipers gathered at a mosque during Friday prayers in northwest Pakistan. Secretary Clinton said the attack "underscores the brutality of those who would target civilians during a time of celebration and reflection for Muslims throughout the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones affected by this deplorable violence."
As the week came to a close, Iranian authorities sentenced detained Americans Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal to eight years in prison. Secretary Clinton said, "We continue to call and work for their immediate release -- it is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families. I join President Obama and the people of the United States in expressing our unflagging support for Shane, Joshua, Sarah and their families during this difficult time."