Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Today the Obama administration said that they pulled U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford out of Syria due to concerns over his personal safety.
This prompted Damascus to remove their Ambassador from Washington D.C., clearly showing a further deterioration of relations between the United States and Syria which are already remarkably strained.
With U.S. Senator John McCain proposing military intervention in Syria and the United Nations pushing against China and Russia in favor of sanctions and a Security Council resolution, the stakes are getting higher by the day.
The U.S. State Department claims that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been backing intimidation and political smearing of U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Ford, which is not unreasonable given his meetings with the Syrian opposition and vocal criticism of the Assad government.
In September, Ambassador Ford’s motorcade was assaulted by pro-government Syrians on the way to a meeting with prominent opposition figure Hassan Abdel-Azim. Following this, crowds attempted to break into the office where the meeting was occurring, effectively trapping Ford inside for about 90 minutes.
The Assad government in Syria has also accused Ford of acting as a provocateur, while the U.S. State Department accused the Syrian Ambassador, Imad Moustapha, and his embassy of spying on Syrian dissidents in America.
While one might assume Syria pulling out their Ambassador was some kind of retaliatory act, an anonymous official in Damascus told The New York Times, “Syria recalled its ambassador as a way to prevent the United States from deporting him”.
A broadcast on the official Syrian state television network al-Ikhbariya, said on Monday night that Moustapha was returning to Damascus “to hold consultations with Syrian leaders”.
Ford has been quite forthcoming with his disdain for the Assad government and how they have handled the uprising since it started in March.
Ford has made statements on Facebook and the official embassy’s website which are consistently negative.
State-run media and some other Syrian media outlets that tend towards the “official line” (also known as the non-Western line) have been critical of Ford in the past but embassy officials are not providing specifics on the threats against Ford.
While Ford was indeed called back, this does not mean that the American government was withdrawing from the post in Damascus, according to Haynes Mahoney who will be acting in Ford’s place while he is gone.
The anonymous Syrian official in Damascus said that the same applied to their Ambassador, Moustapha.
Mahoney said that they are “focusing particularly on the incitement in the media — an incitement campaign, I should say, conducted by the Syrian regime — which we hope will stop […] 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.”
Ford seems a bit delusional about all of this, writing in response to the attack on his meeting with the opposition leader, “Syria’s problems come not from foreign interference but from intolerance — the same kind of intolerance we saw in front of Abdel-Azim’s office. Unfortunately, those problems now are growing worse and more violent.”
In reality, foreign leaders meeting behind closed doors with opposition leaders is nothing short of foreign interference.
The people of Syria have every right to be intolerant of this kind of American meddling, and Ford’s insistence otherwise just makes the nature of Western operations in Middle Eastern nations that much more obvious.
In July, government supporters attacked the American embassy compound and attempted to enter Ford’s nearby residence to no avail.
Interestingly, The New York Times manages to slip a noteworthy fact towards the end of their article on this issue which raises some serious questions about how the U.S. is handling events in the Middle East:
Mr. Ford’s criticism of the Assad government stands in contrast to the relative silence of the American Embassy in Bahrain, an American ally, whose government cracked down violently on protests by the country’s Shiite majority.
I have covered this silence in the mainstream media regarding the brutalization of protesters in Bahrain as well, and coverage of Bahrain seems to be consistently marginalized in favor of news about Syrian crackdowns.
While the State Department is refusing to give details on the specific intelligence that informed their decision to pull out Ford, Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s spokesperson, said that the Assad government was attempting to “deflect attention inside the country away from the legitimate grievances of the peaceful protesters” by accusing Ford and other foreigners.
Contrary to Nuland’s accusations, Ford actually was taking an active anti-government role by meeting in private with the opposition. Clearly this upset the Syrian people and they have every right to react as such.
The Washington Post reports that the State Department has not formally recalled Ford but instead that “he had been summoned home for consultations, with the presumption that he would return as soon as it was considered safe.”
With McCain’s calls for militarily intervening in Syria and this latest devolution of relations, I think the ominous possibility of another Libya-style “humanitarian” assault is growing by the day.
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