Monday, July 11, 2011

Regime Watched Attacks on U.S. & French Embassy in Damascus

The U.S. and France signaled today their ambassadors in Damascus will continue to monitor the violent crackdown on Syrian civilians by the regime of Bashir al-Assad, which looked the other way when mobs breached the two nations' separate embassy compounds.

The attacks on the embassies prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to denounce Assad in the strongest terms to date, coming very close to publicly embracing regime change for Syria.

"If anyone, including President Assad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong," she said. "President Assad is not indispensable, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power."

The U.S. and France believes their embassies were attacked to send a message to their respective ambassadors, Robert Ford and Eric Chevallier, who angered the regime when they traveled Thursday to the city of Hama, the epicenter of pro-democracy protests known as a hotbed for widely held anti-Assad sentiment.

Both diplomats were summoned by a livid Syrian foreign ministry, which accused them of "blatant interference in Syrian internal affairs."

The gutsy diplomats sent a signal of their own by visiting Hama: the world is watching, documenting it all and will not forget how the regime unleashed tanks and tortured its own people.

"We remain committed to supporting the will of the Syrian people to have a better future for themselves, have more transparency in their interactions with their own government, to have a say in the future of their own country, to have an economic system that responds to their personal effort, and all the other values that we in the United States and the EU think are reflective of universal human rights," Clinton said.

A Marine garrison eventually chased off the attack by pro-regime "thugs" at the U.S. embassy in Syria, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. The attacks on the two embassies came after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem pledged to try to do a better job to protect those diplomatic compounds.

"So no sooner does he make that pledge when, today, we have thugs going over the walls. They did not breach the chancery, but they were able to get up on the roof... They were chased off by the U.S. Marines, as I understand," Nuland said.

"There was some spray painting, there were some windows broken, there were some fruits and vegetables and other things thrown at the building, that they did get up on the roof, there were some security cameras knocked out, that kind of thing," Nuland added, saying the U.S. is considering beefing up its security.

At the French embassy, three staff members were wounded, windows were broken, at least one car damaged and Syrian flags were raised on embassy flagpoles, AFP reported. French embassy guards in Damascus fired live ammunition to disperse the crowd.

Paris denounced the attack, calling it a breach of international law.

Clinton showed little restraint in her remarks, asserting the U.S. opinion that the Assad regime was complicit in the attacks.

"By either allowing or inciting this kind of behavior by these mobs against Americans and French diplomats and their property, they are clearly trying to deflect attention from their crackdown internally and to move the world's view away from what they're doing and to create some kind of ongoing conflict between the Syrians and people like our diplomats," Clinton said.

"And it just doesn't work. We expect them to protect our diplomats. We expect them to protect our embassies and our residences. And we don't think that they are doing enough to evidence a willingness to follow through on their international responsibilities. So we've made abundantly clear what we expect, Clinton added.

France, joined the U.S. in declaring it an outrage that the Syrian government failed to live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomatic facilities.

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