Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Syria This Week

by Elliott Abrams
April 29, 2011

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in the Syrian port city of Banias April 29, 2011.

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in the Syrian port city of Banias April 29, 2011. (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters)

Amidst this week’s Middle East news one startling event has escaped the attention it deserves. According to news reports such as this one in the Wall Street Journal, an American diplomat in Damascus was detained and then “hooded by Syrian security agents and ‘roughed up’ before being released.”

This is a remarkable development. For one thing, it sums up as well as any anything could what the Obama Administration has gained from two years of buttering up the Assad regime, loosening sanctions, letting them into the World Trade Organization, sending an ambassador to Damascus, and making believe Assad is a reformer. It has gained us Assad’s contempt.

How did the United States react to this unprecedented, illegal action against the diplomatic immunity of our Embassy personnel? Why, we “formally one spaceprotested.” That means we called Syria’s despicable ambassador into the State Department and told him this was terrible and must not be repeated.

That is not a serious response. If I were an American diplomat in a trouble spot, I would be hoping for a lot more than that—for example, in these circumstances, for throwing the Syrian ambassador out of this country. Our own ambassador in Damascus should never have been sent, was sent over the objections of Congress as a recess appointment, and should be recalled immediately.

Today the administration announced some new sanctions on Syria, including on Assad’s brother Maher, but leaving Bashar al Assad’s name off the list. Why? According to Reuters “he could be named later if violence by government forces against pro-democracy protesters continues.” Put less gently, he appears not to have killed the threshold number of people yet, and if he kills more he’ll go on the list. He did kill more people today—dozens more. The toll is now over five hundred and climbing.

Today as well the UN Human Rights Council condemned Syria, a useful move in making it a pariah state. But I am more concerned about what the United States does in sanctioning the regime and in making it crystal clear that it may not use violence against American diplomats. More than a “formal protest” is needed.

Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by Peter

    Perfectly true and shocking. I read Ford’s cables on the incident but presume (hope) that the serious conversation is taking place is emails and phone calls. I can only imagine what would happen if an Arab diplomat here were kidnapped, hooded, roughed up, etc by any USG entity.

  • Posted by Doctor Strangelove

    “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble….. ”
    “Fair is foul and foul is fair; hover through the fog and filthy air.”
    [Tragedy of Macbeth]

    One should always be careful how they read the tea leaves. This is a distraction and an attempt to get criminal syndicate countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan to extort more ill gotten power and influence over the region. They still haven’t come to grips with their past. Any news on the number of U.S. service members who committed suicide this month?

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    Imad Moustapha , the Syrian Ambassador to the U.S. made his utter contempt for the United States very clear almost two years before assuming his post in Washington . The fact that he is here and we are there can only be described , at this point , as a Diplomatic Abomination .

    The trembling hope of the Obama Administration that Syria can be productively engaged is quickly turning the United States into an international joke .

  • Posted by PissedOffAmerican

    Hmmm. It appears that Abrams and CFR don’t tolerate dissenting viewpoints on their blog. No suprise there, eh? Must be nice, just erase opposing viewpoints. Who knew Abrams and CFR were such cowards?

  • Posted by edree1

    Did the UN Human Rights Council condemn Syria before or after they appointed Syria to taht counci? WTG, obama, keep up the butt kissing for arab terror governments, it sure works well. Oh, and condemn them some more, too, that seems to be working about as well.

  • Posted by yuval Brandstetter MD

    Either way obama wins. if Bashar Assad remains in power, he buttresses Iran’s bid for regional hegemony, Turkish power and Hizzballah in Lebanon. If he loses, no matter: Its the Ichwan, the Sunni muslim brotherhood wins, and its Jihadi islam in power a it is in Gaza, and soon to be in Jordan. What really matters is how to diminish israel back to pre-1967 Auschwitz lines,where it can be wiped out in one major stroke, the mammoth force advocated by Samantha Power. 250 million dollars are spent annually on the Dayton Arab legion to be installed in the hills overlooking the Jewish coastal region. Now there is good use of american tax payers money

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