While couched in security concerns, the decision to close the embassy could signal a shift in policy toward Syria following the collapse of the U.N. diplomatic efforts. The State Department had long sought to keep the embassy open in order to better monitor the situation in Syria, and to preserve an open channel with the Syrian opposition.”
Since mid-January, the administration had said it was considering shutting down the embassy, following three car explosions in the previously calm capital. As Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly reported:
The Obama administration is preparing to evacuate American personnel and close the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, by the end of this month unless the embattled government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad provides additional security for the facility, senior administration officials said.
Officials said they have not reached a final decision and are engaged in talks with the Assad government, but there so far have been no tangible results in providing more protection for the embassy.
U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford left the country in October 2011, following direct threats from supporters of the Assad regime. One attacker tried to wrap Ford in a flag; another group pelted him with eggs and tomatoes. Ford returned to Damascus in December.
Since the ambassador’s return, however, the fight between Assad supporters and the rebel Free Syrian Army has only become more militarized.
And Alice Fordham reports, the tipping point may have been Russia and China’s veto of a United Nations resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown. Fordham writes:
On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. security council resolution condemning Syria that had been strongly supported by Western countries and the Arab League. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced the vetoes as a “travesty.”
More world news coverage:
- Photos: Queen Elizabeth’s life through the years
- Russia raps West, sends mission to Syria
- Egypt to prosecute Americans in probe
- Abbas to lead joint Palestinian government
- Read more headlines from around the world