In the last few months the Syrian regime has detained, hooded, and “roughed up” an American official who had diplomatic immunity, and spied on Americans and Syrians protesting in the United States against the killing of protesters in Syria.
Today the regime went further, sending a mob to attack the U.S. and French embassies. According to al-Jazeera,
“Supporters of the Syrian government have stormed the US and French embassies in Damascus, prompting strong condemnation by the two countries’ officials. Witnesses describing Monday’s assault said the attackers smashed windows and raised a Syrian flag at the US diplomatic compound and wrote anti-American graffiti referring to the US ambassador as a “dog”. A US official said the mob breached the wall of the embassy compound before being dispersed by Marine Corps guards. No buildings were entered and there were no injuries to embassy personnel, but the chancery building was damaged and Syrian security forces were slow to respond, the official said….At around the same time, security guards at the French embassy in Damacus fired into the air and used tear gas to drive back supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
These actions were presumably the official regime reaction to the visit to the beleaguered city of Hama by the two ambassadors. That visit is the first significant public move the U.S. embassy has made against the regime, although friends in the U.S. Government tell me there have been others that were less public.
So, what do we do now? Recall the ambassador in protest? We have two options. The first is to recall him, citing this attack on the embassy plus previous Syrian misconduct. The second is to send him back to Hama and to ratchet up his public displays of disgust with the regime and its behavior. If he does not take those steps, there is no point in his remaining in Syria. If he does take them, either he will become a symbol of resistance to tyranny (always a great role for any American envoy) or he will be expelled from Syria. The latter would dramatize America’s final break with Assad and allow us to expel the Syrian ambassador, the wretched Imad Mustapha. Either way we win.
What we should absolutely not do is be cowed by this regime violence, and ask Amb. Ford to pull in his horns and do less. The choice should be “tell him to do more or bring him home.”