The U.S. ambassador to Syria has been pulled out of the country due to concerns about his safety, which Reuters notes are originating with the Assad regime and its media organs:
The United States has pulled its ambassador out of Syria over security concerns after his cultivation of contacts with protesters led to attacks on his embassy and residence by backers of President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats said on Monday.
Robert Ford left Syria over the weekend, the Western diplomats told Reuters, following a series of incidents that resulted in physical damage but no casualties.
“Articles, more inciting against Ford than usual, have appeared in state media recently. He left on Saturday,” said one of the diplomats, who like others asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
(Emphasis mine.) Ford has been a constant thorn in Assad’s side since the beginning of Syria’s bloody crackdown against protesters. The official body count has soared past 3,000. Among his other regime-threatening activities, Ambassador Ford “paid condolences to the family of Ghayath Matar, a 25-year-old protest leader who had distributed flowers to give to soldiers but was arrested and died of apparent torture.” He’s also visited rebellious cities and publicly mused that the Assad regime is shakier than it looks. He’s even launched regular broadsides at the murderous Assad regime from his Facebook page. Dictators are really starting to hate Facebook.
Assad apparently got tired of trying to keep the irrepressible Ford in a box, so various acts of intimidation and vandalism were perpetrated by overly enthusiastic “regime supporters.” As related by Bloomberg News, when Ford visited the home of an opposition leader last month, “protesters hurled concrete blocks at his car and attacked it with iron bars.” This particular bunch of “protesters” was protesting the same thing Bashar Assad protests, which is the end of the Assad regime.
The Syrian embassy is not a cushy diplomatic post. Ford was the first ambassador to reside there in six years, as his predecessor was recalled after Syria’s rather strongly “alleged” role in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon. The Obama Administration wanted to “re-engage” with Syria, but that effort has reached a pause, if not a conclusive end. As the New York Times reports, the United States hasn’t declared a permanent withdrawal of its embassy from Syria:
Haynes Mahoney, the embassy’s chargé d’affaires, said no date had been set for Mr. Ford’s return to Syria and cautioned that his departure did not mean the United States had formally withdrawn Mr. Ford. Mr. Mahoney will act in Mr. Ford’s place while he is gone.
“We’re focusing particularly on the incitement in the media, an incitement campaign, I should say, conducted by the Syrian regime, which we hope will stop,” Mr. Mahoney said by phone. “At this point, we can’t really say when he will return. I hope it will be soon. But it will depend on our assessment of the incitement and the security situation.”
Mr. Mahoney declined to specify the threats, though Mr. Ford has frequently been a target of sharp government criticism in both state media and on a television station allied to the regime of President Bashir al-Assad.
Meanwhile, the new Middle Eastern hegemon, Iran, decided to flex a bit of public-relations muscle on behalf of its Syrian client, which is located conveniently next door to Iraq, an exciting new client Iran will be formally taking on next year. Iranian president and noted raconteur Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an interview with CNN that was widely reported as mild criticism of the Syrian crackdown in Western media, but was really an “everybody needs to calm down” endorsement of Assad’s legitimacy, along with a naked assertion of Iranian authority. As the BBC reports:
In his most outspoken comments yet, Mr Ahmadinejad told CNN: “Nobody has the right to kill others, neither the government nor its opponents.”
He said Iran would encourage all sides to reach an understanding, but warned the US not to intervene in Syria.
Syria has close ties with Iran, which suppressed its own protests in 2009.
Iran has also put down or prevented about a dozen protests since the wave of anti-government uprisings in the Middle East began earlier this year.
“We are going to make greater efforts to encourage both the government of Syria and the other side, all parties, to reach an understanding,” Mr Ahmadinejad said in the interview with CNN.
He warned against any outside intervention in Syria, in particular by the US.
“The positions of the United States are not going to help. They have never helped,” he said.
There isn’t much NATO or the U.S. can do about Syria anyway, since we’re still putting the finishing touches on the new Islamic Republic of Libya, which just announced that “Islamic Sharia law would be the ‘basic source’ of legislation in the country, and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified,” as reported by Fox News.
Let’s hope Ambassador Ford was right about those signs of weakness developing in the Assad regime, after months of savagely repressing dissidents who refuse to stay down for the count.