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US Closes Its Embassy in Syria; More Deaths in Homs

US Closes Its Embassy in Syria; More Deaths in Homs

 

The US closed its Syrian embassy in Damascus on Monday. In a statement on the embassy’s website, Ambassador Robert S. Ford said that all US operations in the country had been suspended and that all personnel had left Syria due to “serious concerns that our embassy is not protected from armed attack.” Syria’s “deteriorating security situation” is a sign of how far President Bashar al-Assad has lost control of his own country, says Ford.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the “friends of democratic Syria” to join together and rally against Assad’s regime. She had harshly criticized Russia and China vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for Assad to step down and transfer power to a unity government. Clinton described the Security Council as “neutered” and said that it is now necessary to “redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.” Such a group could be similar to the Contact Group on Libya, which presided over international help for the opposition to the late Muammar el-Gaddafi. While this group also coordinated NATO’s military operations in Libya, such are not planned for Syria.

While the US embassy staff has left Syria and has reportedly temporarily relocated in neighboring Jordan, the US has not cut off all diplomatic ties with Syria. But the withdrawal of US embassy staff is certainly a “strong signal” that the Obama administration believes there is “nothing left to talk about with Mr. Assad.” The British foreign secretary, William Hague, said that Russia and China have made a “grave error of judgment” in vetoing the UN resolution; Britain’s embassy still remains open in Damascus

Army Shelling of Homs on Monday

Over the weekend, 200 were reported killed in the restive city of Homs, near the Lebanese border of western Syria and a center of anti-government protests throughout the nearly eleven-month uprising. Activists said that 29 more had died on Monday as the army stepped up shelling the city, seemingly emboldened after the vetoing of the UN resolution.

The BBC’s Paul Wood described “almost constant” blasts in Homs. An eyewitness, Danny Abdul Dayem, told the BBC that the army had started to use rockets for the first time and that more than 300 had fallen on his neighborhood since dawn. In return, some rebels have been firing automatic weapons, a seemingly “futile” gesture. Reports that shelling had hit a field hospital in the Baba Amr district could not be verified. Dayem also said that only one field hospital with four doctors was still operating and that it is impossible to bring in any medical supplies into Homs. An activist, Omar Shakir, told the New York Times that people are afraid to leave their homes.

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, has denied that any shelling has been going on and said that “residents were setting fire to piles of rubbish on the roofs of their homes to trick the world into thinking that there was an attack.” The BBC’s Wood notes that residents are indeed setting fire to trash in the street, but in the misguided hopes of confusing the guidance system of rockets.

A student in Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, said to the New York Times that “All the young guys are getting armed, even university students.” With the failure of a diplomatic solution to stop the violence in Syria — a failure of the UN, some say — an armed sectarian conflict in Syria, a civil war, seems ever more likely.

 

Previous Care2 Coverage

BREAKING: Russia and China Veto UN Resolution on Syria

Syrian Activists Describe Massacre in Homs

Will Russia Veto a UN Security Council Resolution On Syria?

 

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Map of Syria by Tonemgub2010 via Wikimedia Commons

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25 comments

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8:21AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Thank you John. (And thank you for the star, too).

The first time I went to Syria Bashir's father was in power. The next time I went, Bashir had recently been appointed (elected?) President and I saw very few photos of him. I queried this with one of my freinds there and was told "He's new. We don't know him well enough yet." The third time there were photographs of him everywhere.
Last October I saw fewer photographs, and those that were displayed were, for the greater part, old. Yet everywhere people told me (in private - I wouldn't talk politics in public due to the situation) how much they admired him. This even included a man who'd been temporsrily put in jail during the current problems. And he told me this in Jordan, as he feels it's usafe to return to Damascus at present.

4:51AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Thank you for your post Sian.

I have not been back to Syria for many years. When I was there the "Lion of Damascus" was very firmly in power. I wished to go last year - I have enough points on my RAM airmiles scheme to get to Beirut and back with a companion for free and would've taken a cab over the border. I didn't go for a number of reasons but wish I had.

I have heard the "Bashar is not in power" from Syrian friends I keep in touch with. I don't know. What I do know is that, yes, he appears to be admired and to treat his people as adults, yet he is being demonised abroad as a monster who is killing people for nothing.

2:40AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

While it might come as a surprise to some here, this time I don't agree with John D or Jan.

But those who condemn Bashir al Assad are doing so in the errroeous view that he actually holds power in Syria.
When I was there in October it was stressed to me time and time again, by people who supported him AND those who were against the present government, that the 'old guard' - i.e. those politicians who were still in power since his father's day - were the real power in Syria today.
Bashir is much-loved and, where not loved, then at least respected as an honst man by the greater majority of Syrians. It's a real pity that he will be the sacrificial lamb in this situation.

10:50PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Traditionally such an action is a prelude to war.

8:50PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Why?

8:20PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Dominic,

It MAY be time for a military solution, but if it is it must come from those countries who tell us time and again that all Arabs are one blood. Let the Arabs be their brothers’ keepers for a change, instead of demanding that we do it. And let’s not give Arab leaders more opportunities to blame spilt Arab blood on the West.

Great article, Jeffrey W.

Bashir is a great reformer. He’s reforming Syrians’ bodies and faces into unrecognizable bloody pulps.

Ira, great post.

Looks like John D. has been snorting too many pillow feathers again and is flying way up high in la la land, where Israel is blamed for anything and everything.

After a good sneeze one of these days, he might just be able to clear out his sinuses and brain enough to make the sober and brutally honest assessment that what ails the Arab governments is themselves.

5:19PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Closing the embassy will not do anything. Time for a military solution.

5:12PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Ooh, we closed our embassy. That's harsh.

3:30PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

I think it is the right thing to do in the circumstances, no point in puting American lives at risk.

10:37AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Let's see, US closes embassy. That will teach them.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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