US closes Syrian embassy after almost a year of military attacks on civilians

posted at 10:25 am on February 6, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

When Egypt’s population began widespread demonstrations against the Hosni Mubarak regime, it took Barack Obama eight days to demand the resignation of our nominal ally in Cairo.  When Moammar Qaddafi began a campaign of military attacks on his own people to suppress a revolt, it took us just a few weeks to launch an undeclared war on Tripoli.  Eleven months after Syria began massacring unarmed civilians demonstrating against the Bashar Assad regime, the US will finally close its embassy in Damascus:

The State Department on Monday pulled out its remaining staff from the U.S. embassy in Syria, following reports last week that the closing was likely unless President Bashar al-Assad promised further protection for American diplomats.

“Ambassador Ford has left Damascus but he remains the United States Ambassador to Syria and its people,” a State Department spokeswoman said in a statement. “As the President’s representative, he will continue his work and engagement with the Syrian people as head of our Syria team in Washington. Together with other senior U.S. officials, Ambassador Ford will maintain contacts with the Syrian opposition and continue our efforts to support the peaceful political transition which the Syrian people have so bravely sought.”

We had actually pulled Ford out of Syria last year in a long-overdue move.  The Arab League had already condemned Assad by that point, and Saudi Arabia had pulled its envoy to Damascus months earlier.  Incredibly, the US then sent Ford back to Syria in December, maintaining diplomatic relations with a government that was actively opening fire on its own people, the very set of circumstances that Barack Obama claimed as justification for the intervention in Libya.

Give Ford full marks for courage for returning and staying as long as he did, but he never should have been sent back in the first place.  Instead of taking a principled stand and pulling our diplomatic recognition of Assad, as the Saudis managed to do, we are now leaving because of (very real) safety issues.  That hardly sends a strong and principled message to the rest of the world, as our useless engagement of the supposed “reformer” Assad didn’t as well.

Perhaps we can chalk this up to “better late than never,” and it’s good that we were able to evacuate our embassy without a loss of life.  But this was an opportunity missed on many levels, and a demonstration of a lack of real diplomatic direction in the White House.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Uh… didn’t they re-open it initially?

singlemalt 18 on February 6, 2012 at 10:27 AM

If Bush had done this, the liberals would be claiming he’s a “cowboy” who’s “going at it alone” and “offering a clenched fist instead of an olive branch.”

Good Lt on February 6, 2012 at 10:29 AM

OK, so technically it was never closed; they just didn’t have an ambassador…

Sort of like VOTING PRESENT!

singlemalt 18 on February 6, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Now we will send a strongly worded letter.

JimboHoffa on February 6, 2012 at 10:30 AM

So the Syrians are now racist against Obama too. What don’t they understand about the godliness of the First Black President and the power of his Cairo Speech?

Bishop on February 6, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Don’t blame me
-dear leader

cmsinaz on February 6, 2012 at 10:31 AM

So soon?
It’s not Arab Spring yet!

KOOLAID2 on February 6, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Perhaps we can chalk this up to “better late than never,” and it’s good that we were able to evacuate our embassy without a loss of life.

Is there a “better late than never” button next to the “reset” button on Hillary’s lil’ doohickey?

ted c on February 6, 2012 at 10:32 AM

+1 good lt and jimbo
Spot on

cmsinaz on February 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM

US closes Syrian embassy after almost a year of military attacks on civilians

Leading from behind.

Tim Zank on February 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
What would Ron Paul do?

KOOLAID2 on February 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM

That’s a pretty gutsy move to just close up shop and walk away like that.

Kenosha Kid on February 6, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Our ambassador’s in, then he’s out. Then he’s back in again only to be pulled out. It’s like Baracky doesn’t know what to do.

Yo Yo Bama.

fogw on February 6, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Who would you have had to piss off to get assigned to Syria?

Kind of like joining the Air Force and getting sent to Minot.

NoDonkey on February 6, 2012 at 10:38 AM

US closes Syrian embassy after almost a year of military attacks on civilians

Leading from behind.

Tim Zank on February 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM

And so it goes all over the globe.
(leading from behind happens regularly in prisons)

“When you put clowns in charge, don’t be surprised when a circus breaks out.”

~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 6, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Umm… You guys do understand that a US embassy is, among other things, a major intelligence gathering facility, right? It harbors a CIA station (with personnel that can operate under diplomatic immunity), and it also has non-CIA diplomats who, by being on location, can report back to Washington on local developments. You give all of that up when you close down an embassy. So it totally makes sense to keep an open embassy in a country with which you may be engaging in hostilities before the year is out (’cause you should understand this: a war with Iran is also a war with Syria). Also, when the stuff hits the fan, an embassy can serve as a logistical base to help Americans still in the country.

This is why you normally only shutter an embassy if you fear the safety of your guys in the building (think Iran in 1979). The symbolic rebuke conveyed by closing an embassy is orders of magnitude lower on the importance scale.

A.

Time Lord on February 6, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Libya was a humanitarian crisis and required military intervention,..Syria is not. Simple enough. Plus, all the Syrian civilians killed are terrorists, even the children.

a capella on February 6, 2012 at 10:46 AM

The reaction by this administration is in keeping with anti-religious stance.

Been monitoring the approach vector on this for decades now. Let’s not feign surprise as it only makes us look weak and stupid.

StubbleSpark on February 6, 2012 at 10:46 AM

When Moammar Qaddafi began a campaign of military attacks on his own people to suppress a revolt, it took us just a few weeks to launch an undeclared war on Tripoli.

You say that like it’s a good thing. Pissing on the constitution while flipping congress the bird on the most important of foreign matters is nothing to admire. Major WTF on the this one Ed.

abobo on February 6, 2012 at 10:50 AM

“and a demonstration of a lack of real diplomatic direction in the White House.”

Or, we could just chalk it up to pure incompetence.

William Teach on February 6, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Pre-conditions can be such a biatch.

FlaMurph on February 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

The Arab Spring has sprung a tie-rod. Wait another year, then you’ll really see what “ugly” means.

Scriptor on February 6, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Umm… You guys do understand that a US embassy is, among other things, a major intelligence gathering facility, right? It harbors a CIA station (with personnel that can operate under diplomatic immunity), and it also has non-CIA diplomats who, by being on location, can report back to Washington on local developments.

(snip)
A.

Time Lord on February 6, 2012 at 10:43 AM

So let’s wait until the Syrians take over the embassy with hundreds of American hostages?
How well did that work out for the SECOND worst POTUS ever?

~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 6, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Eleven months after Syria began massacring unarmed civilians demonstrating against the Bashar Assad regime, the US will finally close its embassy in Damascus:

Assad seems to have great influence in other country’s halls of power. China and Russia seem to be marching to his tune, and our government has been very slow to do anything at all. It would be interesting to know who in each government owes the Assad regime so many favors and why.

MessesWithTexas on February 6, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Time Lord on February 6, 2012 at 10:43 AM

I agree that there’s more than one function to an embassy, but it’s better to get out on our own terms than the Syrians’.

pookysgirl on February 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM

Assad seems to have great influence in other country’s halls of power. China and Russia seem to be marching to his tune, and our government has been very slow to do anything at all. It would be interesting to know who in each government owes the Assad regime so many favors and why.

MessesWithTexas on February 6, 2012 at 11:11 AM

I think if you read J.E.’s post in the Greenroom, (and in the HA Headlines), China and Russia’s “standing” might be better understood.

Rovin on February 6, 2012 at 11:22 AM

How much agony did Obama experience before he allowed the closing of an embassy in a Muslim country? Plenty, I bet.

gasmeterguy on February 6, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Assad is so scared by this Barry hard ball, he is begging for mercy.

galtani on February 6, 2012 at 12:10 PM

Assad is so scared by this Barry hard ball, he is begging for mercy.

galtani on February 6, 2012 at 12:10 PM

Yeah, Obama’s mental Ju Jit Su is powerful.

Or, is it more like the innocence of Chauncey Gardner?

BobMbx on February 6, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Give Ford full marks for courage for returning and staying as long as he did, but he never should have been sent back in the first place.

Don’t give Ford more credit than he is due. Hillary and Barry forced him back, hoping for a different result. Hmmmm…that sounds like the definition for insanity.

timberline on February 6, 2012 at 12:38 PM

You guys do not understand. The Obama administration’s Syria strategy is based on maintaining the status-quo. They know that the Assad regime won’t go to war with Israel over the Golan heights. And they are not sure about the opposition, who are mainly the Sunni majority. So for the sake of Israel they’d rather have an evil cold blooded dictator over a stable democratic Syria.
What I don’t understand is that, how is it in the US interest to let Assad get away with this. A Syria without Assad is a Syria without Iranian influence, which would naturally be good, not only for the US but for the whole region as well. Once the Sunni majority opposition take power they will break off relations with the Shiite-dominated Iran and Hezbollah. Now, the Al Quds Force, part of Iran’s revolutionary guards and some Hezbollah thugs are slaughtering civilians in Homos and Hama.

Salahuddin on February 6, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Syria is one of those between a rock and a hard place ME locations. I was not one in favor of re-opening the Embassy in the first place but once it was done am still not sure why Ford was even sent back.

Of course in the big picture the younger Assad still has a long way to go to reach the body count that his Father reached with his people however with the Quds there now it should not be long at all…..so for me I am still amazed that anyone is stunned by the turn of events/I mean did anyone really believe the SOS when she said he was a reformer????? Guess she simply failed to mention the way he went about reforming………………

Karla1953 on February 6, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Just sell it to the Russians already.

WeekendAtBernankes on February 6, 2012 at 3:23 PM

In April 2009 then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Syria, against the advice of the State Department. That visit was followed by immediate arrests of Syrian activists—because the Assad regime knew that it would receive far less pressure and criticism from Obama than it had received from George W. Bush.

In June 2009 the Obama administration resumed diplomatic ties with Syria, even though it was on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and funds the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbullah. Syria had not had a U.S. ambassador since 2005, when it was blamed for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Obama stated, “It’s in our interests to have an ambassador in Syria. We’ve been having more and more discussions, and we need to have someone there to engage.” Almost three years later, Obama has finally figured out that one cannot have reasonable discussions or “engage” with a brutal regime that does not care about the rights—or lives—of Syrian citizens. (Obama negotiated no concessions from Syria in exchange for the renewal of ties.)

In June 2009 I wrote in The Obama Timeline: “Sensing Obama’s weakness and naiveté, Syrian leaders can now be expected to take a hard line on dissidents, knowing that the Obama administration will barely criticize their actions—if at all.”

Colony14 on February 6, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Obama’s Syria policy, much like the man himself, is a loser.

Conservchik on February 6, 2012 at 5:47 PM

It’s nice to know that America isn’t the only country hated in the world.

Israel Television reports in its nightly news magazine that Qatari-based Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is considered one of the most important Sunni Sheikhs in the world, has issued a fatwa calling for a boycott of Russia and China over their vetoes of a UN Security Council resolution on Saturday that would have condemned Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Qaradawi called Russia and China the ‘enemies of the Arab people.’

They don’t discriminate: they hate everybody

J_Crater on February 6, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Who cares? does anybody, ANYBODY really think whoever replaces Assad and his clowns will be any better for the “People” or the world. I say let them have their civil war and stay out of it. When the smoke clears you get what you get.

Greed on February 6, 2012 at 7:21 PM

Egypt & Libya is not Syria. America’s Hussein [Obama] wants to raise taxes now, but in ’10 it was bad for the economy. He says he wants jobs created, however he punishes the creators. Neither issue makes sense, as the walking contradiction named Barrack makes no sense. But hey America he is proud of your country and wants to see it do well.

democratsarefools on February 6, 2012 at 9:53 PM