Syria and America: Relations unravel
AMERICA has pulled out Robert Ford, its ambassador in Damascus, from Syria. Mr Ford, who arrived in January after five years without an American ambassador in Syria, returned to Washington, DC this weekend due to concerns for his safety. American diplomats said that credible threats against him had been made after a regime-led campaign of incitement. Recent reports in two state-run Syrian newspapers, al-Thawra and al-Baath, have accused Mr Ford of running death squads as part of a foreign conspiracy to create havoc in Syria. Open notes posted by him on the embassy’s Facebook page have drawn threatening comments. He was mobbed while visiting an opposition member in Damascus and his residence (along with the American and French embassies) has been defaced. After a visit to Hama in July, when the city was largely outside of government control, Mr Ford was accused of supplying weapons to protesters.
Hours later Syria called home its ambassador, Imad Moustapha, for consultations in a tit-for-tat exchange that marks a deterioration of relations between the two countries. American officials have been outraged at the brutal suppression of Syria’s uprising. Mr Ford has angered the Syrian regime and its supporters with his diplomacy in Syria; denouncing the government’s actions, meeting activists and visiting protest hotspots. Mr Ford was originally appointed ambassador through a Congressional recess appointment. His confirmation at the beginning of October is largely credited to his performance in recent months.
Mr Ford is not the only one to have been attacked. Other diplomats, analysts and Syrians abroad have been harassed as regime officials increasingly talk of foreign conspiracies against Syria, sparking fear and inciting its supporters. Anti-Western sentiment is riding high and Syrians are dangerously polarised.
Since the start of the uprising in March, human-rights groups have documented the deaths of over 3000 protesters. Pro-regime bloggers and a group calling themselves the Electronic Army have hacked websites and waged electronic campaigns of insults and allegations against those supporting the uprising. Their opponents have also hacked websites to denounce the regime. A Lebanon-based blog, Filkka Israel, widely believed to involve Syrian state security agents, has issued threats against dissidents in Damascus, accusing them of being spies. ..