Clinton turns on Assad 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled Tuesday that the administration is going to crank up the heat on Syrian President Bashar Assad, who initiated a violent crackdown on his country's political protesters.

"President Assad talks about reform, but his heavy-handed, brutal crackdown shows his true intentions," Clinton said at the State Department.

She announced that the U.S. and European Union are planning to slap new sanctions on top officials in Assad's regime – without naming those officials – ahead of President Obama's speech Thursday on U.S. policy in the Middle East. 

"We will be taking additional steps in the days ahead," she said. 

The underlying question is whether any of  the new sanctions will target Assad himself.  

The U.S. and its allies have already imposed sanctions on a number of top officials in Assad's regime – but none of the financial penalties have specifically named the Syrian president.

Until Clinton's remarks Tuesday, White House officials have avoided naming Assad in their statements condemning violence in Syria, hoping Assad would compromise with the protesters and commit to reforming his government before the U.S. is forced to turn up the heat.

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