US Envoy to Syria Recalled Over “Credible Threats” To His Safety

Robert S. Ford, the American ambassador to Syria, left the country on Saturday over what American officials say were “credible threats to his personal safety.” During the past seven months, Ford has visited several key sites of the anti-government protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. He has also defied a government ban on foreign diplomats leaving the capital of Damascus, traveling to Hama, a hub of protest, and attended the funeral for a slain activist. On his Facebook page and on the embassy’s website, he has criticized the government crackdown, and been harshly rebuked himself by both the Syrian government and by the pro-Assad television station al-Dunia.

Ford’s outspoken criticism of Syria has been in contrast to the relative silence of the US embassy in Bahrain, where at least 35 have been killed in anti-government, pro-democracy protests and hundreds detained. Indeed, Ford’s shows of public support for the Syrian protesters has been “one of the more unusual roles in recent years of an American ambassador” in an Arab nation, a region where there is still much resentment about the US and its policies, especially over American support for Israel.

After Ford’s visit to Hama in July, supporters of Assad attacked the embassies of both the US and of France in Damascus and also tried to force entry into Ford’s nearby residence, but were unable to. Last month, while Ford visited with Hassan Abdul-Azim, an opposition figure in Damascus, his convoy was attacked by Assad supporters throwing tomatoes and wielding pieces of concrete. While Ford held his meeting, crowds tried to break into the building. Following that attack, Ford — challenging the government’s claims that foreign conspirators are behind the protests — wrote on the embassy website:

“Syria’s problems come not from foreign interference but from intolerance – the same kind of intolerance we saw in front of Abdul-Azim’s office. Unfortunately, those problems now are growing worse and more violent.”

During his July visit to Hama, Ford and the French ambassador, who had travelled with him, were greeted with residents throwing roses. Weeks afterwards, a prisoner who had been released reported that government interrogators had demanded the names of Syrians seen escorting Ford’s car in videos.

Also in July, the US had summoned Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the US, after reports that his embassy was carrying out surveillance of Syrian dissidents at anti-Assad rallies in the US. The Syrian ambassador has since not been allowed to travel outside Washington D.C..

Ford, described as a “seasoned diplomat and Arabic speaker,” was appointed by the Obama administration earlier this year to fill the post, which had been vacant since 2005, in the hopes of persuading Syria to change its policies towards Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as towards extremist groups. The US State Department has designated Syria as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and has been seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution to increase pressure on Syria “dramatically” after months of bloody crackdown on protesters that have left over 3,000 civilians dead, as well as over 1,000 government forces.

Earlier this month, the US Senate had confirmed Ford’s appointment to Syria, commenting that it was “a tough message” to Assad as well as a sign of the US’s “solidarity with the Syrian people.” The US says that it does not have plans to expel the Syrian ambassador to Washington “at this time” and that Ford has not been officially withdrawn, but called back regarding the concerns about security. Haynes Mahoney, the embassy’s new charge d’affaires in Damascus, will act in Ford’s post in Damascus while he is gone; Mahoney said that no date has been set for his return.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Libyan Officials Recognize Syrian Opposition As Legitimate

Documenting the Lives of Iraq’s Gay Refugees

Over 3,000 Syrians — 187 Children — Killed In Protests


Photo of Assad by james_gordon_los_angeles

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Bruce Van Tassell

Perhaps Libya was a good idea, but Syria has been so bad for so long and so many innocent people dying if there is to be a coalition of which Arab forces should come first. It is far to late the world must do something to topple Assad and now.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons4 years ago

Gee, hmmm. why would anyone from the middle east not like the U.S??

Jamal L.
Jamal L.4 years ago

thank you MR Ford you where brother and real friend among the syrian in syria ,,

Siusaidh C.
Susan C.4 years ago

Good - Ford should go. His appointment as US ambassador in Damascus is directly related to the horrors experienced in Syria since mid-March. The Syrians are very right to demand change, but not the kind the US 1% is keen to engineer.

A little background on Robert S. Ford. He was "Number Two" at the US embassy in Baghdad (2004-05) during the tenure as Ambassador of John D. Negroponte, an uncharged war-criminal then pushing the Pentagon's "Iraq Salvador Option". This consisted of supporting Iraqi death squads and paramilitary forces modeled on the experience of death squads in Central America when the Reagan presidency was intervening there.

The MSM is misleading about the real work of the US State Department as well as US foundations such as the 'National Endowment for Democracy'. As documented by even the Canadian media, the U.S. State Dept. "has been been funding opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, since 2006. (U.S. admits funding Syrian opposition - World - CBC News April 18, 2011) And this funding is not peaceful, it is violent.

If your mental security depends on believing that US policy is on the side of the angels, close your eyes and go back to sleep. But for those who have courage to face the truth, it is out there.

Michel Chossudovsky, "The Pentagon's 'Salvador Option': The Deployment of Death Squads in Iraq and Syria":

Wayne M.
Wayne M.4 years ago

Isolate Syria immediately, be open to assist and even accept refugees from ASSad's tyranny, but otherwise keep out of that land. We must stop trying to be the world's police force.

Nelson B.
Nelson Baker4 years ago

A brave man standing up for what is right and what he believes. The UN Human Rights Commissioner should be on the Syrian President Assad for his torture and killing of the
Syrian people. Instead the Commisioner is more interested in how the brutal Gaddafi died He tortured and killed the Libyan people for 42 years and the Commissioner was silent.

Betty T.
Betty T.4 years ago

Glad he is standing up for the Syrian people!

Lilithe Magdalene

I respect the courage of this man to stand with the Syrian people right under the nose of Assad.