MARCH, APRIL, 2011:
In early days of protests, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expresses hopes for reform from Assad, saying he is a "different leader" than Libya's then-leader Moammar Gadhafi and urging Assad to "be responsive to the needs" of Syrians. But by mid-April, her tone toughens, saying, "We strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government over the past few weeks."
The U.N. Security Council issues its first presidential statement on the crisis—weaker than a binding resolution—urging Syrian authorities to end all violence and launch an inclusive political process. Ever since then, the council has been unable to pass a resolution on the crisis, with Assad's allies Russia and China twice vetoing drafts, most recently in February.
"For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside," U.S.
Syria's crackdown "may amount to crimes against humanity," investigators from the U.N. Human Rights Council say in a report, noting a pattern "widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population." The report advises Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The following day, the court's prosecutor says it has no jurisdiction since Syria not a member, unless the Security Council votes to refer it.
"The Syrian authorities' continual ruthless repression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war," says Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. She says the violence reinforces the need for the Security Council to submit the situation in the country to the ICC.
FEB. 5, 2012:
After Russia and China veto latest attempt at a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, Clinton warns that a failure to act increases chances for "a brutal civil war" as Syrians move to defend themselves from crackdown.
"Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category," Clinton says of Assad later in the month in Senate testimony.
"The longer this goes on, the longer that Assad and his thugs are allowed to brutally murder the Syrian people, the more likely it becomes a sectarian civil war, " White House press secretary Jay Carney says, also citing potential of a "proxy war" with Iran backing Assad and other nations backing insurgents.
U.N. peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, says the Syrian conflict has escalated into civil war: "Yes, I think one can say that."